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Park Indian head mosaic to be removed

District 833 officials are seeking public feedback regarding the possible removal of the Indian head mosaic at Park High School Sumbitted photo courtesy of Diane Schueller

COTTAGE GROVE — The decision over the Park High School mosaic has come to a head.

During Thursday's District 833 School Board meeting, Supt. Keith Jacobus announced that the district will remove an Indian head mosaic from the floor at Park High School.

Citing a Minnesota State Board of Education resolution in 1988 that deemed emblems or symbols depicting Native American culture or race as unacceptable, the school's decision in 1994 to change the mascot from Indians to Wolfpack and hearing concerns about the negative impact the symbol had on some students, the decision was made for removal.

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"Knowing the research, knowing the negative impact the symbol has on some of our students at Park High School and knowing the decision to remove the mascot was already made 20-plus years ago, the emblem should have never remained," Jacobus said from a prepared statement. "Therefore, the decision has been made to remove the emblem from the floor at Park High School to support our current and future students in alignment with our district's mission."

Park High School Principal Ginger Garski is in support of the mosaic's removal.

"Our number one priority as a school district is to create a safe and welcoming learning environment for all students," Garski wrote via email. "Having heard from many native and non-native students at Park High School who have concerns about the lack of cultural sensitivity with the emblem on the floor, I think it was the right decision to remove the emblem."

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Jacobus said there is no formal timetable on the mosaic's removal and a preliminary estimate on the cost of removal is $3,000. Jacobus added that contrary to rumor, no agreement was made after the mascot transition to keep the emblem.

"After our current students shed light onto the negative impact of the past mascot on the floor was having on them, we would be negligent in our commitment to creating a safe, inclusive and welcoming community for all of our students if we did not take their concerns seriously."

During their Feb. 14 meeting, School Board members were urged to remove the Indian head mosaic, which was installed in 1965 in the east part of the main hallway near the school gym. When rumors began circulating that the mosaic would be removed, petitions sprung up in favor of keeping the mosaic as a symbol of the school's history.

"Many of the students I have heard from are relieved that a decision has been made," Garski said. "The ones who brought the issue to the forefront have been following the social media discussions and are deeply affected by what is being said. Our students have been watching this all unfold and are worried about some of the emotional sentiments being expressed. I hope we can find a way to move forward as a community."

Jacobus invited the community to share its ideas on the "We're Listening" survey on the district's website.

"Moving forward, the district will be looking for ideas from the community on how to best celebrate the history of Park High School and its students," Jacobus said. "I will be asking the Park High School administration to put together a committee of students, staff and community members to discuss the ways to honor Park High School and capture the rich history."

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