Brainerd Public Schools: District receives mental health grant

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

More efforts to reduce the stigma of mental illness in the Brainerd School District and the community at large are underway.

Brainerd Superintendent Laine Larson announced Monday, July 29, Sourcewell awarded a $100,000 innovation grant to a collaborative group, including the school district, Central Lakes College and Essentia Health.

“We asked for a $100,000 grant for one year to hire someone on a part-time basis to provide an overview of what we are offering to our youth as far as mental health supports, what kind of programming we have for teachers and staff within our schools, what kind of curriculum and so on,” Larson said during Monday’s school board meeting.

With the grant approved, the new part-time employee will be hired through Essentia Health, Larson said, but will work with all three entities.

After the year is up, Larson said she hopes to be able to continue applying for the grant for up to three years but isn’t sure yet how that will play out.


“We’re hoping that we’re going to really be able to see some systemic work and once again a true community collaboration to address some of the needs that we have for our youth and to reduce that mental health stigma for them.”

The school district contracts with Northern Pines Mental Health Center for mental health services throughout the school year. Eight full-time mental health professionals are stationed at Forestview Middle School, and at least 10 at Brainerd High School. While the elementary schools do not have full-time mental health staff, a total of 37 mental health professionals come and go throughout all the schools in the district based on need.

In other business Monday, the board:

Approved new hires in the district: Angela Bennett, human resources director; Rena Bolt, parent educator at the Brainerd Learning Center; Sarah Emerson, art teacher at the Brainerd Learning Center; Michelle Feyder, parent educator at the Brainerd Learning Center; and Margaret Hillman, food service at Brainerd High School.

Accepted staff resignations: Lauren Martinson, speech language pathologist assistant at Garfield Elementary; Amanda Mattsen, KinderClub supervisor at Nisswa Elementary; Ebony Riley, special education paraprofessional at Lincoln Education Center; Jennifer Rushin, adult services coordinator at community education; and Jennifer Skorich, special education paraprofessional at Forestview Middle School.

Approved a $166,030 change event for the new Baxter Elementary School. This extra cost -- which takes up 16% of the project’s contingency budget -- is mostly for a firewall in the school, which is a barrier required in buildings of a certain size to prevent the spread of fire in the building. The change is coming after back and forth conversations with the state officials. Contractors believe the project will still track on budget with the extra cost.

Approved a contract with Dow Acoustics Inc. for ceilings and acoustical treatment in the performing arts center at Brainerd High School. This bid of $1.8 million was not included in the list of contractors awarded bids earlier this month, as negotiations were ongoing. With this addition, the project is tracking 7% under budget.

Approved a revised petition and waiver agreement with the city of Baxter for the Mapleton Road, Jasperwood Drive and Knollwood Drive project with an increased cost due to higher bids than estimated. The roughly $2.5 million project will restructure and recontour nearby adjoining thoroughfares to account for increased traffic with the Baxter Elementary project. The school district’s portion of the project increased $336,853, while the city’s portion increased to $348,387. This extra cost still keeps the project within budget.

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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