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Brainerd Public Schools: Public to weigh in on new elementary school name

Baxter Elementary School Principal Tammy Stellmach (right) and Community Education Director Cori Reynolds discuss with the Brainerd School Board Monday, Feb. 25, how to name the new elementary school to be built in Baxter. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch1 / 2
A rendering shows the proposed design for the new elementary school to be located on Jasperwood Drive in Baxter. Photo courtesy of Widseth Smith Nolting and ICS Consulting.2 / 2

A new elementary school is slated for the 2020-21 school year in Baxter, but whether it keeps the name Baxter Elementary School or goes in a different direction is still up for debate.

The community, though, will have a say.

With the current Baxter Elementary to be converted into an early childhood center, a new school will be built on an extension of Jasperwood Drive, near Forestview Middle School, in Baxter.

School board members were conflicted when the topic of naming the school came up at their board meeting Monday, Feb. 25.

"I think that the name Baxter Elementary gives a lot of identity to the community. I think if there were multiple elementary schools in Baxter it would be a different thing," board member and 35-year Baxter resident Bob Nystrom said, adding he would like to be sensitive to the city of Baxter as well, as city officials are partnering with the school board to acquire the land necessary for the new school and build a new portion of Jasperwood Drive.

"It's uniquely Baxter to me," he said.

Board member Ruth Nelson said she didn't have a strong feeling either way because she isn't a Baxter resident, but was open to the idea of a new name.

"The current building, to me, is Baxter Elementary," she said. "And Baxter has a lot more students that come from other areas, that come from East Gull Lake, unorganized territory south, Pillager area. A different name might be a good thing for that school so it's not just considered Baxter."

Both Nelson and board member Reed Campbell mentioned the possible confusion if both the new early childhood center and the elementary school have "Baxter" in their names. As a Baxter resident, though, Campbell agreed with Nystrom about the community identifying with the school's current name.

Superintendent Laine Larson reminded board members a name has not yet been chosen for the early childhood center either, so it may not include the word "Baxter."

Campbell and Nystrom, then, both suggested keeping Baxter Elementary School and choose something else for the early childhood center.

Board member Charles Black Lance agreed, saying he couldn't think of a reason to change the elementary school's name.

Board Chair Sue Kern did not have a strong opinion either way.

Ultimately, the board agreed to leave it up to the community after hearing from Community Education Director Cori Reynolds and Baxter Principal Tammy Stellmach, who, like Nelson, both said so many people think of Baxter Elementary School as the current school and will still visualize the old building.

"I've been really insistent ... that we don't call the new building Baxter Elementary because I wanted to reserve the ability for us to go through a naming process if we wanted," Reynolds said. "The community really rallied around the district to vote yes and build this school, and we thought this might be a really exciting engagement piece."

Stellmach agreed, adding she hasn't heard any negative feedback from parents about the potential for a new name.

To figure out how the community feels, the district posted a survey Tuesday, asking if the school should remain Baxter Elementary or if a new name should be chosen. Depending on the results, the district may reach out to the public again to ask for name suggestions. The survey is available at http://bit.ly/2H4FjQQ.

Stellmach said she would like to have a name chosen by the time crews break ground on the project, which is scheduled to happen in May.

"Baxter or not Baxter," she said, "I'm happy to be a part of it either way."

In other business Monday, the board:

Approved two grant proposals for innovative fund grants through Sourcewell. The district will request funding for the planetarium at Forestview Middle School and for new driving simulators for the drivers education program.

Scheduled a public hearing at 5:45 p.m. March 18, to discuss granting a proposed tax abatement of 24 properties to finance the construction of and improvements to district parking lots and related work. The properties within the Brainerd School District to be abated are:

  • 14086 Dellwood Drive.
  • 14858 Dellwood Drive.
  • 15236 Dellwood Drive.
  • 14742 Dellwood Drive.
  • 14546 Dellwood Drive.
  • 8186 Excelsior Road.
  • 7567 Excelsior Road.
  • 14133 Edgewood Drive.
  • 7295 Glory Road.
  • 14890 Beaver Dam Road.
  • 2024 S Sixth St.
  • 5067 Nisswa Ave.
  • 23103 County Road 3.
  • 6963 Forest Lake Road.
  • 5523 Birchdale Road.
  • 7207 Foley Road.
  • 7789 Hastings Road.
  • 217 Etak Drive.
  • 15739 Audubon Way.
  • Two properties owned by BNSF Railway with no address listed.
  • A property owned by Costco with no address listed.
  • A property owned by Crosby Cardiovascular Services with no address listed.
  • A property owned by Northern States Power Company with no address listed.
Theresa Bourke

I started at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and the Brainerd School District. I follow city and school board officials as they make important decisions for residents and students and decide how to spend taxpayer dollars. I look for feature story ideas among those I meet and enjoy, more than anything, helping individuals tell their stories and show what makes them unique.

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