While four district schools are under construction, plans are moving forward to update the rest of the buildings in the Brainerd School District.

School board members approved construction documents for the Garfield Elementary School project Wednesday, Nov. 13, and authorized project managers to begin soliciting bids.

Updates to Garfield include expanding the art room to create more kindergarten space; a two-classroom addition; a kitchen addition; front entry and administrative suite updates and additions; cosmetic upgrades for ceiling, flooring and duct work; and additional parking outside, including new accessible parking spots close to the building.

The estimated $11 million project does not include a full-size gymnasium, which Superintendent Laine Larson pointed out would mean Garfield is the only elementary school in the district with a smaller gym. If project bids come in favorably, however, expanding the gym is an option.

The gym, as it stands, Larson said, is not large enough to host big assemblies. She used the Veterans Day program earlier this week as an example, as people flooded out in the hall during the program because there was not enough space in the gym.

“We’re still hopeful that we might be able to do something with that space to enlarge it so that it’s the same as the other schools,” Larson said.

Construction will be done in two phases, Kyle Walters, project manager with ICS Consulting, told the board. Phase 1 will begin this coming spring with work continuing through the summer to finish before school next fall. Phase 2 will take place in spring and summer 2021 and finish up before school starts that fall.

“This was based a lot on the space availability for staff,” Walters said. “We don’t have a lot of free space in the building in order to relocate in order to accommodate some of this. So with phasing the schedule this way, this will allow us to add some additions that will create space to move teachers out of locations where we need to take over their classroom for the new admin addition, and this will help accommodate getting an admin location separate from that front entry, too, so we can continue access for parents and students.”

Contracts for Garfield will be awarded in January.

Other projects

Brainerd High School, Nisswa and Harrison elementary schools are undergoing renovations, while construction has also begun on the new Baxter Elementary School.

Board members will take a bus tour of the construction sites Dec. 2 and 9. They will visit the elementary schools Dec. 2, with the bus leaving at 2:45 p.m. from Washington Educational Services Building. The group will visit the high school at 4 p.m. Dec. 9.

Final construction documents are in the works for Lowell and Riverside elementary schools, and the project managers plan to solicit bids for the projects in mid-December and early January. Both projects are planned to be complete by fall 2020.

The current Baxter Elementary School will be converted into an early childhood center. Bids will likely be solicited in January.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa.