At its January meeting, the Little Falls School Board authorized the city of Little Falls to use a 14-acre property, located across from the high school, to possibly build a community recreational facility.
The decision was made based on the agreement that not all 14 acres would be used, but that adequate acreage would be left for students to use in their agricultural, science and other educational learning.
However, as Board Member Cathy Adamek said, “The cart was put before the horse,” Supt. Stephen Jones said many people jumped to the conclusion that all 14 acres would be used, which quickly spiraled out of control. As a result, the school district was essentially villainized and as a result, people started questioning the district’s commitment toward the agriculture program.
Jeremy Maslowski, assistant wildlife manager with the Department of Natural Resources and a 2006 Little Falls Community High School graduate, spoke in support of a letter to the editor retired agricultural teacher Doug Ploof had published in the Morrison County Record in opposition to the proposal, about how important agriculture education was and the impact it has had on students over the years.
He also spoke of a concern that it could potentially lead to the agricultural educational program to be discontinued.
Jones reminded the Board and visitors of the accomplishments the district has had in the last eight years that he’s served as superintendent, that clearly show the district’s commitment to ag learning.
Within the last seven years, the district has implemented a 2 1/2-acre vegetable garden, which has produced about 100,000 pounds of vegetables that has been used to feed the students in the school cafeteria program.
The last six years, the school campus has had a 30-foot by 40-foot high tunnel with underground heating and water system, which has also been used to produce vegetables. The green house has also tripled in size and the district now employs a second agriculture teacher.
Jones said prior to the public learning about the potential building of a community recreational center near the school, representatives from the school, the city, architects and more had met to discuss it.
“Mr. Ploof was a part of that initial meeting where we talked about acquiring land, about doing some land trades, about not using the entire land and about what we could do to not only promote further ag education and outdoor education, but also provide another assemblance of education for our students and some outdoor activities, as well,” Jones said. “I don’t think this should have been all or nothing. Unfortunately that is what it has become in the public eye and it was never intended that way in the conversations we’ve had with the city, with the architects and our ag and science departments. They have been in this from the get go.”
Jones said that the meetings that have been held have been positive.
“There are a number of opportunities out there that would, again, through a compromised and trade and acquisition situation allow use of a portion of that 14 acres, but then also provide agriculture and science the ability to acquire, for no cost of the school district, additional lands that can be used for outdoor education as well as within walking distance from the school,” he said.
Jones said the goal is some up with something that can benefit all students.
“We want to work with the ag departments and to do what is best. Not only for those kids, but also for our other kids who don’t have an interest in ag and who aren’t going to be environmental biologists, but have some other opportunities and use of the facility that the district could help be a part of,” he said.