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School Board: Picking a partner - District moves forward with facilities plan

Heidi Hahn (left) and Nancy Anderson address the Brainerd School Board Monday night about special education funding shortfalls. Hahn is the district's director of special education and Anderson is the principal at Lincoln Education Center. Spenser Bickett/Brainerd Dispatch

Clank, clink, clunk.

The boiler-based heating system at Washington Educational Services Building kicked on at a coincidental moment during Monday night's Brainerd School Board meeting.

As Superintendent Laine Larson talked about implementing the district's comprehensive long-range facilities plan, she alluded to the heating system in the district's oldest building, while the system switched on loudly.

"There's an irony, isn't there?" Larson said.

The board Monday night approved a resolution to execute a contract with Foster, Jacobs & Johnson Inc., for facilities program management services. The estimated costs of the services outlined in the FJJ proposal is $125,000.

Putting together the comprehensive long-range facilities plan was the first step, board member Tom Haglin said. Hiring FJJ to help implement the plan is the second step, he said, albeit one with six phases.

An initial timeline proposed by FJJ shows the scope of work taking place from February through August. There's no date set for a bond referendum, Haglin said, and it's not important what time of year the referendum takes place. A bond referendum should happen when momentum behind the project is at its peak, Larson said.

"Otherwise you kind of go down and you have to build it up again," Larson said.

The district will see how the listening sessions go and how the rest of the school year goes, Larson said. At that point, they'll assess when a bond referendum could happen.

At a November meeting, Larson proposed a six-phase process for how to proceed with the plan. The request for quotes asked firms how they would implement the six phases, which are:

• Comprehensive district communications planning,

• Stakeholder engagement: internal and external listening sessions,

• Potential surveys and assessments,

• Develop project scope options and alternatives,

• Bond referendum election process,

• Comprehensive construction management services.

Foster, Jacobs & Johnson will include sub-consultants Widseth Smith Nolting and Kraus-Anderson Construction in the consulting process. All three companies have worked on numerous projects in school districts throughout Minnesota. Most notably, WSN and Kraus-Anderson worked on the Forestview Middle School construction project.

The proposal from FJJ brings the district through the first five steps of the six-phase process, Larson said. The final phase, construction, would require work outside the scope of the approved proposal. Visit to see the FJJ proposal.

"Now the next fun steps begin," Larson said.

The process will include upwards of 40 public listening sessions, Larson said, which is part of the overall goal of being as transparent as possible during the process.

"We want to be open, we want to be honest, we want to be forthcoming," Larson said. "If people have questions, we want to get back to them with answers."

At its December monthly meeting, the board decided to seek quotes and statements of qualifications for a project management firm to execute the district's plan. The deadline for submitting quotes was Jan. 27.

The proposal from FJJ was the only proposal the district received, Larson said. The public notice was published in the Brainerd Dispatch and the Star Tribune and the notice was also sent directly to 12 qualified, Minnesota-based firms.

"We were very pleased with the quality of the proposal," Larson said.

An interview committee of about 13-14 people on Feb. 8 met with representatives from FJJ, WSN and Kraus-Anderson for a three-hour interview about the proposal, Larson said. Representatives explained their vision for the project and also fielded questions from the committee members, she said.


The recommendations in the approved comprehensive long-range facilities plan include a combination of right-sizing, renewal, reinvestment, repurposing and replacement. Those recommendations are:

• Brainerd High School: renew and reinvest,

• Forestview Middle School: maintain,

• Baxter Elementary School: replace with a new school; repurpose for programs from Lincoln Education Center and Brainerd Learning Center,

• Garfield Elementary School: right-size and renew,

• Harrison Elementary School: replace with a new school,

• Lowell Elementary School: right-size and renew,

• Nisswa Elementary School: right-size and renew,

• Riverside Elementary School: right-size and renew,

• Brainerd Learning Center: reinvest for early learning,

• Lincoln Education Center: vacate, relocating programs to current Baxter Elementary School,

• Washington Educational Services Building: renew.

There are 12 facilities in the district, comprising 1.2 million square feet and 289 acres of land. The district's boundaries encompass 516 square miles. The oldest building in the district, Washington Educational Services Building, was built in 1929. The newest building, Forestview Middle School, was built in 2004. The average age of the district's buildings is 44 years old.

Visit to view a final draft of the comprehensive long-range facilities plan.

In other business, the board:

Approved donations totaling $7,077 for the month of February. The donations also include a laptop from the Brainerd High School robotics team.

Received a reminder from Larson there is school on Feb. 20, President's Day. Typically a day off from school, there will be school on Monday as a makeup day from a snowstorm in November.

Received a report from Heidi Hahn, director of special education, and Nancy Anderson, principal at Lincoln Education Center, on the state of special education in the district. Hahn and Anderson outlined state and federal special education funding shortfalls and what they mean for the district.

Approved a resolution submitted by the 2016-17 parent committee for the multicultural services advisory committee. The parent committee is made up of parents of children eligible to enroll in American Indian programs, secondary students, representatives from community groups and school administrators. The resolution states the district's educational programs adequately meet the needs of American Indian students and must be approved by the board so the district can apply for state grant funds, Larson said.

Approved the following policy revisions based on Minnesota School Board Association and Minnesota Association of School Administrators updates: policy 601 - school district curriculum and instruction goals, policy 613 - graduation requirements and policy 616 - school district system accountability.

Approved the first reading of the following policies: policy 604 - instructional curriculum, policy 618 - assessment of student achievement, policy 620 - credit for learning and policy 624 - online learning options.

Approved the second reading of policy 608 - instructional services - special education.

Spenser Bickett

Spenser Bickett covers the Brainerd City Council and education. A native of the Twin Cities, Bickett attended the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he majored in journalism with a minor in political science. After graduation, he worked for the International Falls Journal as a staff writer before coming to Brainerd.

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