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Pequot Lakes School: PLHS principal no longer to be deployed

Pequot Lakes High School principal Chip Rankin recently learned he will no longer be deployed with the Army National Guard to Liberia in March in response to the Ebola outbreak in the area.

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Pequot Lakes High School principal Chip Rankin recently learned he will no longer be deployed with the Army National Guard to Liberia in March in response to the Ebola outbreak in the area.

In November, Rankin informed the school board that he - as a lieutenant colonel in the Army National Guard - would be deployed in March. However, he recently received word that his deployment to the area is no longer necessary, as the outlook continues to improve in western Africa.

"Since I was notified of (my deployment) in November, we have gotten updates every single day on the work of the 101st Airborne, who is over there now," Rankin said. "I would say this is a success story for the United States in some ways, because the infection rate of Ebola in November was about 60 patients per day. Now, they are down to about one a day."

Rankin, who was away from the high school in 2011 serving in Afghanistan, cites the work done by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Doctors Without Borders - as well as the 101st Airborne - for improving conditions in the area. Health treatment facilities are now up to a higher standard. Blood results that determine if someone has the virus now take a few hours to return instead of a few days, and the bodies of those that die from Ebola are disposed of following much stricter guidelines.

"They have really been able to isolate instances of the disease," Rankin said. "So now schools are going to reopen in the next few weeks ... They have been able to do a lot of things very rapidly to put this potentially very dangerous situation at rest for the most part."

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Though he was looking forward to this new experience, the Little Falls native admits he was relieved to learn his deployment had been called off.

"I was ready to go if I have to go, but I have four kids," Rankin said. "I love my job and I would prefer not to go, so I was pretty relieved."

Over the past few weeks, the Pequot Lakes School District has been taking strides to adapt to being without its high school principal, including hiring retired middle school principal Randy Hansen to serve as interim principal in Rankin's absence. Now, that measure is no longer necessary.

"Randy has been in last week and he has been in this week, and he was prepared to take over," Rankin said. "The great thing about Randy is that he is retired, so he can go back. We are going to throw a retirement party again on Friday."

Superintendent Chris Lindholm expressed his sympathy toward Hansen - as well as his gratitude for his willingness to help the district - but said the district is "ecstatic" to have Rankin's leadership in the spring.

"For our school district, our students and our staff, having Chip and the stability of his leadership here is obviously a win for us, and it is the best thing for our organization and the mission we are driving toward."

Though this deployment has been called off, Rankin is not sure if that means he will be deployed somewhere else in the near future. However, he is prepared to take that in stride if he needs to, thanks to the encouragement of the school district and community.

"I really appreciate the community support," Rankin said. "They have been phenomenal. It puts me at ease that if I ever get called again, I know the community is standing behind me."

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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