ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Brainerd Public Schools: District responds to public criticism following Harrison playground destruction

Brainerd School District administration cited safety and liability issues as reasons for tearing down the playground equipment at Harrison Elementary School, a decision that elicited public backlash on social media.

Playground equipment is demolished by construction crews at Harrison Elementary School Monday, June 3, to make room for the upcoming addition to the school, raising concerns by some that the equipment wasn't reused. DeLynn Howard / Brainerd Dispatch
Playground equipment is demolished by construction crews at Harrison Elementary School Monday, June 3, to make room for the upcoming addition to the school, raising concerns by some that the equipment wasn't reused. DeLynn Howard / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd School District administration cited safety and liability issues as reasons for tearing down the playground equipment at Harrison Elementary School, a decision that elicited public backlash on social media.

In order to make room for an addition to Harrison, the school district previously released plans noting the playground would have to be moved. What many residents said they did not realize, however, was the current playground equipment would be destroyed.

A video of the demolition posted to Facebook Monday, June 3, garnered more than 10,000 views and over 133 comments as of Tuesday afternoon.

Most commenters said they were upset the school district did not donate or repurpose the playground equipment in some way, with many noting other entities likely could have used the equipment.

Dan Wahl, who lives a block away from Harrison, told the Dispatch he was disgusted and blown away by the decision.

ADVERTISEMENT

"I understand there are some liabilities in moving stuff like that, but even still, you spend thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars to buy this stuff, and a few years later smash it down with heavy equipment and throw it in the scrap pile. It's a waste," Wahl said.

"There are places that stuff could go. It didn't have to be smashed down and thrown away."

School board members Sue Kern and Reed Campbell agreed tearing down the equipment was sad to see, but they and Superintendent Laine Larson cited liability as the main reason for not reusing it.

"We don't want to be wasteful," Kern said over the phone Tuesday. "But for liability we can't (reuse it), and that's unfortunate."

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Larson wrote: "When speaking with building consultants, playground equipment frequently has cement footings and rarely survives the removal process. Once any piece of equipment is bent or damaged in any way, any warranty is voided and the manufacturer will not recertify it. For safety and liability purposes, the district cannot assume the liability of donating or selling a piece of equipment that is not certified.

"Any piece of playground equipment that can be repurposed or moved will be used again (such as the net climber at Harrison) as we move forward."

Larson's statement also emphasized the school district's commitment getting the best value for taxpayers' investment in their local schools.

"We work diligently to be careful and thoughtful stewards of taxpayer resources," the statement said. "During this and all building projects, the district takes great effort in preserving our resources to the greatest degree possible."

ADVERTISEMENT

Before Larson's statement came out, board member Tom Haglin said Tuesday he was not aware of the playground's demolition, but both he and Kern noted the district is donating as many materials as possible from its acquired properties and houses to Lakes Area Habitat for Humanity.

Some commenters on the Facebook video called for others to contact school board and city council members with their thoughts, a process school board member Charles Black Lance said he appreciated.

"I think that the process of the community touching base with a school board member like myself and then that information being relayed to administration, that's a pretty healthy process," Black Lance said, "and that's what we saw in this situation."

In a phone interview later Tuesday, Larson said there have been many different opportunities for community members to get involved in the design and construction process, including www.bluepring181.org and school board meetings, though she does not know if the playground being demolished was specifically discussed at meetings.

"I think that we've been trying really hard just to be open and community just to the best of our ability," Larson said.

Related Topics: SCHOOL BOARD
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.
What To Read Next
Who are the people being held in custody in Aitkin, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd, and Wadena counties?
Fundraising is underway to move the giant ball of twine from the Highland, Wisconsin, home of creator James Frank Kotera, who died last month at age 75, 44 years after starting the big ball.
Inmates in-custody in the Mille Lacs County jail in Milaca, Minnesota
Inmates in-custody in the Hubbard County jail in Park Rapids, Minnesota