Brainerd Public Schools and the Walker-Hackensack-Akeley School District will each receive $5.2 million over the next five years to construct new facilities for students with special needs.

The Sourcewell Board of Directors voted unanimously at its Jan. 21 board meeting to commit over $10 million to help construct two additional Setting IV facilities within its five-county service area.

Based upon prior conversations with school districts and considering areas of priority, both Brainerd and Walker-Hackensack-Akeley were selected by the board to receive this funding.

Sourcewell Executive Director Chad Coauette said this latest commitment will mark a nearly eight-year journey of planning and execution to help regional school districts meet the needs of all students.

“We are pleased to provide a source of funding that will allow each organization to champion their building project to serve the needs of their constituents,” Coauette said in a news release.

In 2016, regional special education leaders met with Sourcewell staff to discuss possibilities and partnerships in regard to schools’ growing need for Setting IV facilities. Setting IV refers to programming in a separate school setting for students with significant behavioral or mental health issues. Students receive additional academic, behavioral and mental health programming in this alternate setting.

In 2017, the Freshwater Education District in Wadena and the Mid-State Education District in Little Falls each received about $5 million from Sourcewell to construct Setting IV facilities. Both officially opened their doors to begin serving students and their communities at the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Coauette said the financial commitment for the Walker facility will take place this year and next; while the Brainerd facility will be funded over the following three years. In total, this is a planned five-year investment/commitment, he explained.

“This is a great example of our board’s commitment to take on the challenges within Sourcewell’s five-county area of service,” Coauette said. “As an organization, we are service driven and dedicated to reinvesting in our cities, counties, schools, and nonprofits. By funding these facilities, the impact will be realized by the entire region, and we feel very good about that.”

The facility at Brainerd will be on the high school’s south campus.