Brainerd School Board: Concerns raised on Nisswa Elementary’s progress

Project team managers are saying the school's renovation project is on track to open for the 2020-2021 school year, but the Brainerd School Board received at least one comment that raises concerns on that front.

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

With the first day of school looming on the calendar, construction crews are racing to beat the clock as they renovate a number of Brainerd School District facilities before classes are set to begin.

At a presentation during the Brainerd School Board meeting Monday, Aug. 24, representatives of ICS — one of the primary engineering-architectural firms the district is contracting to undertake its $205 million facilities revamp — gave a progress update to the board on Brainerd High School, Nisswa Elementary School, Harrison Elementary School, the new Baxter Elementary School, Riverside Elementary School, Lowell Elementary School and Garfield Elementary School. All of these sites are currently under construction as parts of a district-wide overhaul of its aging infrastructure voters approved in 2018.

Justin Maaninga, a senior project manager with ICS, gave a breakdown on the closing stretch for the Nisswa Elementary School renovations. Maaninga noted crews are currently undertaking the finishing touches of the renovation on the rooms, kitchen, as well as completing final inspections of the completed work. The facility had limited occupancy as of Tuesday’s meeting, Maaninga said, and the school was on track to fully open by the first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 8.

However, there were questions from the board regarding progress on the worksite. Pointing to concerns communicated to her, Superintendent Laine Larson said renovations were not progressing as quickly as anticipated and there was dissatisfaction from people on the ground with Nisswa Elementary School’s current status.

“A concern was brought to my attention today that Nisswa (Elementary School) right now just does not look ready to go as far as cleanliness and everything for staff to be able to come in here and do all the hard work that they've got to do this fall,” Superintendent Laine Larson asked. “When can they expect that it's going to be finished and clean and our staff know that it’s taken care of for them?”


Maaninga replied that crews were working directly with Principal Molly Raske and her staff to make sure they can meet scheduling needs. At the time of Monday’s meeting, Maaninga said the project was tracking well with these needs and expectations were being met in terms of the school’s reopening process.

In other business, the board:

Accepted the hirings of Jennifer Larson, an early childhood coordinator with the Washington Education Services Building; and Daniel Ryan, a special education teacher with the Lincoln Education Center.

Accepted donations from Costco in the amount of $200 for the district food service’s Angel Fund, and $62,361.81 from the Brainerd Public School Foundation to purchase a new grand piano for the BHS music department.

Approved a resolution verifying candidates for three 4-year school board positions up for election this year and calling the Nov. 3 election for these seats. The verified candidates include incumbents Sue Kern and Bob Nystrom, as well as challengers Freedom Porter, Kevin Boyles, Jaquelyne Calos, Amanda Ciesinski Chan, Emily LeClaire, and Jana Shogren.

Approved a resolution renewing Director of Teaching and Learning Tim Murtha as Brainerd Public Schools’ Identified Official with Authority for the Minnesota Department of

Education. According to district documents, the purpose of the IOWA is to manage district employee access to the MDE's Education and Identity External User Access system. This allows identified district employees to submit and access data for reporting, compliance and fiscal purposes.

Adopted a resolution that would designate up to five snow emergency days or school closure days for inclement weather to be, instead, utilized as e-learning days. Students would be obligated to complete their assignments from home.


GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at .

Note: This story was updated Aug. 31 to correct the name of ICS from its previous name of ICS Consulting.

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