But school board officials concerned that budget, staff cutting could impact future academic improvement 

Gains in reading and math scores at the Viking Elementary School level have shown a steady rate of improvement; and newly-released 2019 results show Pelican Rapids students are gaining proficiency at rates well above the state average. 

Math proficiency in grades 3-6 was nearly 12 percent above the state average. Reading was nearly 4 percent ahead of the state. 

With more than $1 million in budget cuts this year, and more cuts likely, school officials and board members are concerned that the steady gains could slowly reverse in coming years.  

In an effort to buffer against the budget cuts, the Pelican Rapids school board is asking voters for a tax levy to increase operating revenue by about $300,000 a year for the next decade.  The election is Nov. 5, with voting at Pelican Rapids City Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

Proficiencies were ahead of the state in nearly every grade. In two remarkable examples, Pelican fourth graders were nearly 25 percent above the state average in math proficiency.  In reading, the 4th graders were nearly 20 percent ahead of the average.  

Elementary Principal Derrick Nelson reported the numbers at the Oct. 21 Pelican Rapids School Board meeting. He was quick to praise the teaching staff, but also previous Principal Ed Richardson.  Richardson started at Viking in 2014, but was named interim Superintendent this year. Nelson just assumed the Viking school principalship this year.  

“Hats off to the people who were before me,” said Nelson at the Oct. 21 meeting.  

 Gains at Viking Elementary have been slow, but steady. A decision to maintain small class sizes in grades Kindergarten to grade 2, which the school board made midway through the decade, are believed to be a factor in the improved academic performance at the elementary school level.  

The $1 million in cuts, approved in spring of 2019, included laying off teachers, increasing the teacher to student ratio at Viking. 

“If we have to make more cuts, we’ll  keep increasing class sizes—and that means less one on one teacher- student contact,” said Nelson.  “It could affect student learning in the future, with less teacher interaction with kids.”