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opinion Brainerd, 56401
Brainerd MN 506 James St. / PO Box 974 56401

Whittier Elementary School seems to have had more second chances than the proverbial cat with nine lives. Just as the Brainerd School Board last week was preparing to choose a bid for the demolition of the 1939 north Brainerd school a stay of execution was granted.

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Officials with Discovery Woods Montessori School asked the school board to postpone demolition plans while they consider whether it might be feasible for the Montessori program to buy the school.

Vacant since 2008, the school district has spent $200,000 in annual heating and maintenance costs while its future has been debated. Also, school officials have said a new roof - costing about $120,000 - may be needed in about eight years.

At one time Northern Pines Mental Health Center and The Center had offered to repurpose the building into the Whittier Elementary Community Center for Health and Wellness. The city of Brainerd, however denied a zoning ordinance amendment that would have been required for the repurposing of the building. Both the city of Brainerd and Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center informed the school district they had no interest in acquiring the school.

Many neighbors of the school had spoken out against the Northern Pines proposal and had expressed the hope that the building would resume its use as a school. It's clear other uses of the building have not garnered much support.

Consensus seems to be that a school is the preferred use for that building, if it's going to have a future at all. For aesthetic, historical and sentimental reasons, that would be a welcome outcome.

A decision on what to do with Whittier school has been elusive and the decision process has dragged on for several years. We understand the frustration of school board members as they try to find a workable solution to this problem.

Discovery Woods Montessori School should act fast if it truly has an interest in using the school. Insurance for the building expires June 30 and the expenses continue to mount. Taxpayers won't have much patience for the idea of further delays followed by what could be another possible dead-end on the Whittier issue.

The school board agreed to postpone a vote on awarding demolition bids until its June 25 meeting. We hope that by that meeting the Montessori school is willing to make enough of a commitment that the school board can justify holding off on demolition.

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