100s in quarantine as Brainerd schools move to full-time distance learning

The school board also discussed its plans for coronavirus relief funding.

School board Nov. 12.PNG
Brainerd School Board members discuss the COVID-19 situation in the district during their meeting Wednesday, Nov. 12, livestreamed on YouTube. Screenshot / Theresa Bourke

Brainerd School Board members received updated COVID-19 case numbers throughout the district Thursday, Nov. 12, and reviewed expenditures to be reimbursed by coronavirus relief funds.

Twenty students and 32 staff members in the district tested positive since the last COVID-19 update at the Oct. 26 board meeting. Also in that time, 144 staff members and more than 200 students have entered quarantine. Those numbers primarily account for elementary students and staff, as the middle and high school moved to full-time distance learning Nov. 5, though some cases at the secondary level are still included.

Groups of students having to quarantine since Oct. 26 include: a third grade class at Riverside Elementary School, a fourth grade class at Garfield Elementary School, five students in a developmental and cognitive disorder class at Forestview Middle School, seven students in a Level 3 classroom at Baxter Elementary School receiving specialized support, an early childhood classroom at the Brainerd Learning Center, four students from a developmental and cognitive disorder class at Brainerd High School, and a Level 3 classroom at Riverside.

RELATED: Staffing concerns prompt distance learning for several schools Superintendents continue to urge their communities to follow state and federal health guidelines so students can return to the physical classroom as soon as possible.
Students and staff of all ages and across all buildings and departments have been affected, Human Resources Director Angie Bennett said. Board member Sue Kern asked how severe the cases are, and Bennett said it varies dramatically. Some people just have a headache or a cough, while others require hospitalization and, in some cases, transportation via ambulance. Among those hospitalized was high school social studies teacher Dave Borash, who shared his story with the Dispatch about his time in the intensive care unit last month.

Elementary students are set to begin full-time distance learning next week, with teachers using Monday-Tuesday, Nov. 16-17, as preparation days and remote classes beginning Wednesday, Nov. 18.


Superintendent Laine Larson said administrators will continue working with public health officials and monitor local data closely with the goal of getting kids back in school as soon as it is safe for all.

RELATED: Brainerd Public Schools announce distance learning model for all its students "Thank you for your unending support for high quality education for all learners at Brainerd Public Schools and please stay strong, courageous, patient, and most of all — healthy," Brainerd superintendent stated in a letter.

CARES funds

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided three funding mechanisms to school districts. The Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund is for costs related to expanding technology and improving student-to-teacher ratios for summer programming, as well as summer program transportation. The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund offers money for additional summer school needs; mental health resources for students, staff and families; and specific needs for historically underserved populations in the district once technology, summer school and mental health needs are met. Money from these funds can be used for expenditures from March 13 through Sept. 30, 2022.

Additionally, the Coronavirus Relief Fund includes money for daily operational costs like cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, along with transportation, technology, internet access, school-age care, professional development, social emotional learning and mental health supports. Money from this fund can be used for expenses from July 1 until Dec. 30.

Brainerd Public Schools received $1,721,756 from the Coronavirus Relief Fund and will use it as reimbursement for the following expenses:

  • Technology administrator (July-December), estimated $37,561.35.

  • Long-term substitutes (eight certified, one non-certified), $116,528.

  • Online K-4 literacy program, $58,468.

  • Chromebooks (purchased in August), $562,750.

  • Power cords, estimated $39,980.

  • Hotspots (July-December), estimated $23,121.

  • Food service lanyards, badges and scanners, estimated $9,205. These replaced PIN numbers students used during lunch for contactless service.

  • Classroom microphones and cameras, estimated $60,000.

  • Cleaning sprayers, $16,000.

  • Autoscrubbers, $210,000. These are self-driving floor scrubbers, allowing custodians to clean other areas while the machines clean the floors.

  • PPE, $17,536.59.

  • Extra cleaning supplies, $20,000.

  • Site supplies, $5,803.12.

  • Online subscriptions, $10,900.

  • Food service/building and grounds truck, estimated $70,000.

  • Thumbprint tables and bins, $301,500. These are tables and storage bins that can be separated from one another so students can social distance.

  • Professional development, $71,023.

Wages for the COVID-19 coordinator will come from the Coronavirus Relief Fund as well, though the final amount will be less than the $39,776.11 originally budgeted for July-December, as the position was not filled until Sept. 21.
The district received $84,777.90 from the governor’s fund and expects between $847,000-$879,000 from the elementary and secondary fund, though the final allotment is not yet known. Those funds will go toward the January-July 2021 salaries for the COVID-19 coordinator and the technology administrator, at $39,667.11 and $37,561.35, respectively. Another $5,158.99 of the funds will also go toward hotspots purchased for last spring’s distance learning and for 2021.

That leaves more than $800,000 in funds for future expenses through September 2022.

The district received an additional $282,202 from Crow Wing County’s relief funds to pay for Chromebooks purchased last spring.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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