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Brainerd School Board: What's next now that bond referendum passed?

Brainerd Superintendent Laine Larson addresses the Brainerd School Board and the audience Monday on what the district's next step is now that the bond referendum passed last week. Jennifer Stockinger /Brainerd Dispatch

What's next for the Brainerd School District, after voters approved all three referendum questions in last week's special election?

"We have a boatload of work to do and we need to get going," said Kevin Donnay, Widseth Smith Nolting president, to the Brainerd School Board Monday.

Voters approved the $145.8 million bond referendum which gives the district the go-ahead to begin the construction of its final comprehensive facilities plan, which includes building a new Baxter Elementary School, repurposing all six elementary schools and remodeling the Brainerd High School north and south campuses.

Brainerd Superintendent Laine Larson started the meeting off by thanking the community and the staff for all the hard work in making the district's plan a reality. She presented a cake to celebrate the success of the referendum and then discussed what the next step was in the district's six-phrase process—which is the "comprehensive construction management services" phase.

"We promised our community that we will provide the highest quality educational opportunities for our taxpayers' generous investment," Larson said. "When our voters went to the polls they gave from their pocket book and their gave their heart and we need to keep that in mind as we move forward ... We are on phase six.

"We are very fortunate to have all three pass."

Larson said construction of the building projects will take about four years. She said the projects the district will tackle first are the slight remodel of Forestview Middle School, building a new Baxter Elementary School, redesigning Harrison Elementary School and then starting the remodeling of Brainerd High School north campus.

Dave Bergeron with ICS Consulting who the board hired for its facilities program management services to help the district implement its plan, said remodeling the high school will take about three years to complete.

In a proposed draft, the construction schedule showed the design and bidding for Forestview, Baxter, Harrison, Nisswa and BHS north campus would begin June 1 and construction would begin June 1, 2019. The Forestview project may be completed by Aug. 31, 2019; Baxter by July 31, 2020; and Harrison and Nisswa by Aug. 31, 2020; and the high school north campus by Aug. 31, 2021.

Construction on the other buildings would begin in 2020 or 2021-22. All the projects are scheduled to be competed by Aug. 31, 2022.

"This is just a draft," Bergeron said of the construction schedule. "A lot of things can impact construction projects of this size. There are lots of moving parts in this."

Donnay said critical work must be done, such as detailed drawings to make sure each building project is designed right and the right contractor is hired for the job. Bergeron added he would like to see local contractors do a majority of the work, but said the work will take many contractors to complete.

Steve Lund, the school's former business services director, who resigned but is helping his successor, Marci Lord, talked to the board about the first financial step the board has to take to get the projects started—authorizing the sale of bonds. The board scheduled a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. April 30 to authorize the sale of bonds. Then on May 28, the board will award the sale of bonds.

Lund said these dates will keep the district "on track" to begin its projects. Lund said the district will want to get the lowest interest rate it can as it can mean a savings of a million dollars or more. Once the bonds are awarded, the district would have the funds by June 25.

Larson said the already approved school calendar for 2018-19 will not change much, including spring break. She said it is too early to tell but students in Nisswa, Harrison and possibly the high school may see a change in the calendar for 2019-20, 2020-21 because of construction.

"On year two we will be in the middle of 11 projects and it will be the same on year three so there may be some changes to the school calendar," Larson said.

In other business, the school board:

Passed a resolution for the canvassing of votes from the school district's special election. Per the Minnesota Secretary of State, election results are not official until they have been reviewed and certified by a canvassing board.

Approved the following resignations/retirements: Nicolette Anderson, Brainerd High School special education teacher, resigned effective June 4; Cynthia Askerooth-Olson, first-grade teacher at Garfield Elementary School, is retiring effective June 4; Beverlee Dunphy, Early Childhood School Readiness teacher at Baxter Elementary School, is resigning effective June 4; Jason Marcelo, special education teacher at BHS, contract was not renewed, effective June 4; Emily Olson, kindergarten teacher at Riverside Elementary School, contract not renewed, effective June 4; Alexa Sinnwell, first-grade teacher at Riverside, contract not renewed, effective June 4.

Hired Heidi Hahn, the director of special education for the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative, as the assistant superintendent of schools effective July 1. The board agreed to replace her current position. Hahn will replace Aaron SInclair, who has already put in his resignation notice.

Hired Tammy Stellmach as the Baxter Elementary principal, effective July 1. She will replace Steve Lundberg, who will retire at the end of the school year.

Congratulated the Brainerd speech team students who made all-conference: Ayla Madsen in Creative Expression; Kirsten Schroer in Discussion; Maddie Schuld, who was conference champion, in Extemporaneous Speaking; Julia Chock, Meryl Tigenoah and Andrew Mendez in Extemporaneous Speaking; Maison Jobe in Original Oratory; Quinci Larson in Poetry; and Taylor Krassas in Prose Reading and Isabelle Bundy earned honorable mention; and Alexis Schroer in Storytelling.

Congratulated the Brainerd Knowledge Bowl team. Brainerd sent six teams to compete in the Section 5 meet. Out of 89 teams, the top 24 advance to the sections tournament. Five out of six teams advanced to sections and four teams advanced April 12-13 for the state tournament. Brainerd claimed three spots, taking first, second and third place in sections.

Congratulated the Nisswa Elementary Future Problem Solving team. The team competed March 24 at the State Future Problem Solving Competition at Apollo High School in St Cloud. The topic was Cloud Storage. The team competed in both the Global Issues Problem Solving Competition and the Presentation of Action Plan Competition. Students Owen Byrns and Matt Simpson placed first in the GIPS Alternates Competition. The Nisswa team of Callista Anderson, Ava Capelle, Fern French, Tristan Rollins, Owen Byrns and Matt Simpson, placed fourth in the Presentation of Action Plan Competition.

Congratulated BHS Band Director Christopher Fogderud for being selected by the college board to be part of the Advanced Placement Music Theory Instructional Design Team. The Instructional Design Team consists of five high school AP Music Theory teachers and three college music faculty from around the country.

Approved eight donations from businesses and residents that will go towards the BHS robotics program, Father Reading Every Day program, curriculum at Nisswa Elementary School, student activities and the science, technology, engineering and mathematics program.

Approved a field trip for students at the Brainerd Learning Center field on April 26-27 to the Audubon Center of Northwoods in Sandstone.

Approved a field trip for the BHS debate team on June 15-23 for the national debate and speech tournament in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Approved a sale contract for right-of-way with the BNSF Railway for Riverside school.