Brainerd opens school facilities for non-district org use

Groups will be required to submit a COVID-19 preparedness plan before renting any district facilities.

Washington Educational Services Building
The Washington Educational Services Building. Brainerd Dispatch file photo

After the Minnesota State High School League loosened restrictions on fans at indoor sporting events last week, the Brainerd School Board decided to open up its facilities to outside use.

Reid Thiesse, director of buildings and grounds, told the board Monday, Oct. 12, the district put a pause on letting outside organizations use facilities when the state high school league announced earlier this year no fans would be allowed at indoor sporting events. Some gyms are also being used as learning spaces to allow students to spread out.

With limited fans now allowed for sports like swimming and volleyball, board members agreed to allow youth organizations — like Brainerd Youth Athletic Association and Brainerd Basketball Association — to use school facilities.

Cori Reynolds, Community Education director, said renters will be required to submit a COVID-19 preparedness plan, complete with face covering rules, capacity limitations and documentation on how to make sure everyone in attendance is healthy. Liability waivers may be included as well.

Wade Haapajoki, representing Brainerd Basketball Association and Brainerd Youth Athletic Association, spoke to the board during public forum. He outlined safety precautions in place and said all their players must also sign waivers this year, which serve as the organizations’ promise to follow COVID-19 protocols. Superintendent Laine Larson said that’s something the district could look at for outside organizations as well.


No visitors will be allowed during practices of these groups, Thiesse said, and tickets will be sold for games and tournaments ahead of time for the sake of capacity limitations and contact tracing.

With custodial staffing concerns in the district, Reynolds said the district may look into an additional charge to renters for cleaning and disinfecting. Thiesse added the district is advertising for more custodial workers right now to assist with cleaning and sanitation procedures and invited any interested to apply.

Board member Charles Black Lance asked if this means youth sports organizations will be able to have tournaments, which usually serve as major fundraisers for the groups. Thiesse said it’s not out of the question but may just take some creative problem solving to pull off.

Black Lance also asked about the idea of continuing on with sports in the event the district moves into a distance learning model. His daughters, he explained, play in a basketball program at Armstrong High School in Plymouth. The school started the year in a full distance learning model but still allows sports programs to use its facilities.

RELATED: PR-B sees 1st COVID case; C-I reverses elementary hybrid learning plan

Larson said the state’s Safe Learning Plan specifically states if a school goes into distance learning because of the number of COVID-19 cases, then sports must be suspended. Some larger schools, she said, chose to start with district learning, in part because a hybrid model may be too complicated and to allow their facilities to be open for sports and other activities. If Brainerd chose a distance learning model for reasons other than COVID-19 cases, then they could continue with sports, but the Safe Learning Plan is clear. Those guidelines could change, though, as time goes on, Larson added, also noting she was encouraged by a consultation meeting last week with state and local health and education officials. It seems officials really want to work with the district, she said, so administrators may at least be able to have a conversation with the Department of Education about sports if distance learning happens.

RELATED: Brainerd Public Schools: Attendance, homework are issues for some distance learners The district has done well so far with synchronous scheduling, an official said, but faces unexpected challenges with synchronous learning. He told board members at their last meeting while he would like to say distance learning plans are unfolding exactly as planned in August, that isn’t the reality.
Board Chair Tom Haglin said Black Lance brought up a good point, but it’s just something the district will have to take a week at a time.

In other business Monday, the board:


Authorized new substitute teacher hires: Janell Carlson, Wayne Ecklund, Tim Edinger, Christopher Pohlkamp and Kathy Saxvold.

Authorized new hires: Julie Anderson, districtwide clerical substitute; Russel Boyd, child care program assistant; Elena Dirks, child care program assistant; Nancy Donnay, districtwide special education paraprofessional substitute; Jordan Getty, assistant seventh grade football coach; Richard Glendening, districtwide custodian; Calbe Johnson, building systems administrator; Tana Johnson, assistant ninth grade volleyball coach; Kurtis Klein, districtwide custodian; Nathan Ruopp, districtwide custodian; April Shell, special education paraprofessional; Lilliana Shequen, child care program assistant; Hailey Tihlarik, head ninth grade volleyball coach; Jie Westphal, special education paraprofessional at Forestview Middle School.

Accepted a $400 donation from Costco Warehouse for the district’s Angel Fund, which helps families with the cost of school meals.

Approved the addition of a set of 312-capacity powered bleachers to gymnasium No. 1 at Baxter Elementary School at a cost not to exceed $71,500.

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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