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Brainerd School Board: Education dept. gives go-ahead on proposed building plan

Dave Bergeron with Foster, Jacobs & Johnson Inc and WSN consultant Erica Marcussen Monday talk about security in the Brainerd School District's buildings and how it will be improved if voters approve the building bond referedum scheduled for April 10. Jennifer Stockinger / Brainerd Dispatch

The Brainerd School District got the green light from the Minnesota Department of Education on its voter-approved bond referendum.

And just in time as the school district's special election set April 10—when voters will be asked to approve a $145.8 million bond referendum.

The Brainerd School Board Monday hosted a public meeting—per state law—asking for public input on its referendum of its final comprehensive facilities plan, which proposes building a new Baxter Elementary School, repurposing all six elementary schools and remodeling the Brainerd High School north and south campuses.

The school district spent three-and-a-half years developing a facilities plan with the goal to meet the health, safety and education adequacy needs of all the district's schools. The district hosted public listening sessions at all its schools earlier this year and met with all the staff before coming to the final plan decision.

The MDE requires a review and comment statement on the educational and economic advisability of the school's construction project. The MDE found the district had a "positive" review and comment and if voters approve the referendum, the district may proceed with the proposed projects.

Voters will be asked three questions:

• Question 1 concerns investing in the elementary school buildings and Early Childhood Family Education program, not to exceed an estimated $68.4 million.

• Question 2 concerns investing in the secondary buildings and alternative education facilities, not to exceed a total of an estimated $69.4 million.

• Question 3 concerns investing in an enhanced performing arts center, for a total cost of $8 million.

The third question is contingent on the second question passing; meaning if Question 2 fails, so does the third.

In relation to the proposed building project, Brainerd School Board member Bob Nystrom said he has been asked by a lot of people in the community about safety in the schools because of the recent school shootings in the nation.

Dave Bergeron with Foster, Jacobs & Johnson Inc., who the board hired for its facilities program management services to help the district implement its plan, said the top priority of the proposed building project has always been the safety and security of all buildings for students and adults. Bergeron said right now, anyone can basically walk into any of the school buildings and have contact with students. He said the plan includes secure entrances at all the school buildings, and each person who enters the building will have to check in with a school receptionist.

Bergeron said safety around the buildings regarding parent and school bus drop-off and pick-up will also be improved.

Currently, another safety concern is students walking from the high school to Tornstrom Auditorium to practice before their performances, having to cross a busy South Sixth Street. Bergeron said if Question 3 is approved for the larger performing arts center, students won't have to leave the campus.

Nystrom said people in the community also have asked why the Lincoln Education Center, which is across the street from BHS, has to be demolished. WSN consultant Erica Marcussen, who has been involved with the project since Day 1, said the district is looking at expanding the north end of the BHS north campus by adding classroom spaces and a performing arts center. She said this means the school will lose parking spaces. Taking down Lincoln will allow for more parking spaces and give the high school a more secure, controlled main entrance, she said.

Those who want to learn more about the building project before the special election can go to the district's website on its plan at www.blueprint181.org.

In other school business, the school board:

Agreed to keep with the approved calendar to have students be in school April 2—a day they would have had off—to make-up for the March 5 snow day when they missed school.

Accepted the retirement of Baxter Elementary School Principal Steve Lundberg, to be effective June 29.

Accepted the resignation of Assistant Superintendent of Schools Aaron Sinclair, to be effective June 30.

Accepted retirements from Elizabeth Harrison, a fifth-grade science teacher at Forestview Middle School and Jennifer Knutson, a Title One coordinator for the district; both effective this June.

Hired Tessa Capelle, a physical therapist at the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative, and Eric Jobe, an A-Comp coordinator and curriculum staff development specialist; both effective this July.

Accepted family medical leaves for Angela Bahr, Sarah Borchert, Priscilla DeMarre, Kimberley Larson and Deborah Torkelson.

Accepted several donations to the school district that will benefit community education programs, district nurses, Lowell Elementary School and Brainerd High School.

Approved the purchase agreement for the 2018-19 BHS Trades Program Home for $59,600.

Approved the 2019 and 2020 yearbook agreements for Forestview Middle School.

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