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Brainerd Public Schools: District opens bids for 3 building projects

The Brainerd School Board hears from Chris Ziemer of ICS Consulting about proposals to solicit bids for three district building projects -- Forestview Middle School and Nisswa and Harrison elementary schools -- during a board meeting Monday, March 4, at the Washington Educational Services Building. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

After approving construction documents for three building projects, the Brainerd School Board authorized project managers Monday, March 4, to solicit bids for the updates to Forestview Middle School and Nisswa and Harrison elementary schools.

Forestview Middle School

By the beginning of the 2019-20 school year, Forestview is scheduled to have reconfigured parent pick-up/drop-off areas and a secure entrance to enhance safety. The estimated $1.5 million project includes a horseshoe configuration for the main entrance drop-off site and the addition of another drop-off zone on the north side of the school. Together, these sites roughly quadruple the amount of space for vehicles to line up.

Again voicing concerns about the drop-off area configuration, council member Charles Black Lance opposed putting the project up for bid.

"We need to make sure that we hit this out of the park from where we sit in terms of those that we represent," Black Lance said. "And what I've heard so far is this is probably the best design, and I don't feel 100 percent comfortable with 'probably.'"

The horseshoe configuration, he has said several times, concerns him as he does not believe parents will use the full horseshoe but will instead just drop their kids off closest to the doors. He had previously said he believes many parents—himself included—will still use the north parking lot as an unofficial drop-off area because it's closer to the building.

Over the weekend, Black Lance said he was at a basketball tournament in Bemidji and noticed the well-designed drop-off area at the new elementary school; a design, he added, that was similar to one of the several plans engineers considered and ultimately discarded for the current proposal.

Project manager Chris Ziemer of ICS Consulting and his team previously told the board they went through about a dozen design possibilities before settling on the current one, assuring board members all options were considered.

"I think I speak with a very loud voice," Black Lance added, also noting his appreciation for all the time engineers put into the project. "Right now, my children are actively using that drop-off. I use that drop-off every day. And I just have great concern about whether or not that's really going to change and make for a smooth drop-off process for our parents."

Board member Tom Haglin expressed disappointment the district did not specifically ask Forestview parents for feedback before moving forward with the design. Comments were allowed on the district's Blueprint 181 website for a time, but Haglin said he would have liked to personally ask 15-20 parents about the project, a request he made before the design was approved but never came to fruition.

As Black Lance was the lone dissenting vote, the project will go out for bids March 27.

Nisswa Elementary School

The estimated $12 million project at Nisswa Elementary includes a two-story classroom addition, a full-sized gymnasium, remodeling on the south end of the building, enlargement of the cafeteria and remodeling of the kitchen and office area.

Two add-alternate projects—meaning they could be completed if the projects comes in under budget—are a parking lot on the east side of the building and a two-classroom addition above the gym.

The project will go for bids March 26, with construction slated to be completed by fall 2020.

Harrison Elementary School

At Harrison Elementary, the main entrance will switch from busy Oak Street to Norwood Street on the north side of the building, and designs for the three-story building also include a learning commons for each grade level, a new gymnasium, media center and bigger cafeteria. A bigger gym is an add-alternate if bids come in far enough under the $19 million budget.

The project will go out for bids April 2, with constructed slated to be completed by fall 2020.

Ziemer said all projects are tracking on budget.

The school board closed its meeting Monday and entered into closed session "to develop or consider offers or counteroffers for the purchase or sale" of property, with discussion potentially including Jasperwood Drive, Mapleton Road and Knollwood Drive. That area in Baxter is the proposed site for the new elementary school, as Baxter Elementary will be converted into an early childhood center.

No action was taken after the closed session.

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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