2019 Top 10 Stories: No. 6 — Brainerd Public Schools begins construction projects; Pillager, C-I pass referendums

Phase One of renovations are underway in the Brainerd School District, while officials with two other area districts are in the planning stages of their own voter-approved upgrades.

The last large precast concrete panel swings into place Wednesday, July 24, for the new Harrison Elementary School gymnasium. The work at the school, located on Oak Street in Brainerd, is part of the first wave of construction projects throughout the Brainerd School District. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Several Brainerd Public Schools building projects began in 2019 as a result of the April 2018 bonding referendum.

The passage of the $250 million referendum means new and renovated school buildings.

Phase One of renovations are in progress at Brainerd High School and Nisswa and Harrison elementary schools. A new Baxter Elementary School is under construction as well on a new extension of Jasperwood Drive. The current Baxter school will become an early childhood facility.

At BHS, renovations will place all students under one roof with a reconfiguration of the north campus building and the addition of an eight-lane competition swimming pool. The south campus building will be remodeled to accommodate transitional programs and programs currently housed at Lincoln Education Center, which will be demolished in the future.

A 1,200-seat performing arts center is under construction on the north end of the high school. The facility will host not only school events, but larger community arts events and performances as well.


Harrison Elementary School is getting a new main entrance off Norwood Street on the north side of the building. Designs for the new three-story building also include a learning commons for each grade level, a new gymnasium, a media center and a bigger cafeteria.

Construction crews at Nisswa are also adding a full-sized gymnasium, along with a two-story classroom addition, enlarged cafeteria and remodeled kitchen and office areas.

The new Baxter school will be a two-story, five-section building for kindergarten through fourth grade. It will accommodate 625 students, with each grade having its own learning commons.

Work at Forestview Middle School was completed over the summer to reconfigure the parent pick-up/drop-off areas and add a secure entrance.

The elementary schools are slated to be completed by the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, with the high school and the performing arts center to be done the following year.

Phase Two of the construction plans include remodeling Lowell, Riverside and Garfield elementary schools to add new gyms and more classroom spaces.

The elementary schools will also gain more parking spaces.

Other area referendums

The Pillager and Crosby-Ironton school districts will also begin construction in the future, after both districts passed referendums earlier this year.


Voters approved Pillager’s $14.39 million bonding referendum in May, giving the district money to fix maintenance issues, add classroom space and build a 350-seat performing arts center.

In November, Crosby-Ironton voters approved a $25.96 million referendum to fund technology upgrades, facility maintenance and facility upgrades at both the high school and elementary school.

The Pine River-Backus and Staples-Motley school districts also took a shot at referendums in 2019 but were unsuccessful. Nearly 57% of voters opposed the PR-B referendum, and about 70% of voters in Staples-Motley cast opposing ballots.

Visit for the rest of the Brainerd Dispatch's 2019 Top 10 list.

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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