The latest designs for the new performing arts center to be constructed at Brainerd High School include an orchestra pit larger than originally planned.

The expanded pit will increase in size from the planned 836 square feet to 1,343 square feet, allowing for a 70-member orchestra instead of 50. There will be a curtain to partition off the pit to help with acoustics when smaller ensembles play.

Scott Whittemore of ICS Consulting told school board members Monday, Sept. 23, designers were approached by representatives from the Lakes Area Music Festival requesting the larger orchestra pit. The organization, which sponsors free classical music performances throughout the lakes area each year, agreed to fundraise for and donate the extra $80,000 worth of costs for the change.

Scott Lykins, the music festival’s executive director, said by phone Tuesday he wanted to make sure the performing arts center could cater to a larger orchestra, if need be, especially when considering the future of the Lakes Area Music Festival.

“We wanted to make sure that we are able to work with the school district in making that a place that will serve our organization as well as all the other community groups that have been involved in the conversation,” Lykins said, adding the school district’s willingness to work with the group on this issue is just one example of how community input has been used throughout the district’s building projects.

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“We are thankful that the school district is taking the time to listen to our organization and other organizations as they build this building that will serve a purpose beyond the scope of the school,” he added.

The 1,200-seat performing arts center, which will be on the north side of BHS, is expected to be completed by fall 2021.

In other business Monday, the board:

Approved new hires: Paige Bachman-Wroolie, assistant cook/dishwasher at Washington Education Services Building and Kirsti Schardin, assistant cook/dishwasher at Forestview Middle School.

Accepted staff resignations/retirements: Al Ebertwoski, custodian at Garfield Elementary, retirement; Heather Hanson, special education paraprofessional at Forestview, resignation; and Haley Hins, food service at Brainerd High School south campus, resignation.

Accepted donations to the district: $10 from Box Tops for Education for student activities at Brainerd Learning Center; a courtroom anatomical illustration portfolio from Severson Porter Law for classroom use at BHS; backpacks and school supplies from Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Cub Foods and the Department of Human Services for student needs in the district.

Designated the director of teaching and learning to be renewed as the district’s “identified official with authority” for the Minnesota Department of Education for recertification purposes.

Agreed to have Braun Intertec provide professional services, through a master service agreement, for special inspections and testings for all remodeled district buildings, as per the pre-approved individual project budgets.