As a new elementary school goes up in Baxter and other renovations happen across the Brainerd School District, families will also see a change in some of the district boundaries.
About 54 students at Riverside and Garfield elementary schools could be affected, though students will have the option to continue where they are.
The new Baxter Elementary School is under construction near Forestview Middle School, making the move south across Highway 210. The new boundaries school board members approved Monday, March 9, mean students in the southwest portion of the Riverside boundary will move to the new Baxter school. The southwest boundary for Baxter will extend south to State Highway 371 to include 19 students who now attend Riverside.
The boundary for Nisswa Elementary will extend farther east across County Highway 4 and the northern section of County Highway 3, encompassing 16 students who now attend Garfield. A portion of Garfield’s southwest boundary will be further swallowed up by Harrison, whose northeast boundary will extend to County Highway 8, taking 19 more students from Garfield.
Right now, Garfield is almost running at capacity, Assistant Superintendent Heidi Hahn told the board. After renovations, Nisswa will have the capacity for 100 more students, and Harrison about 125 more. Moving students to Nisswa and Harrison, then, would allow for future growth at Garfield. And many of the parents in the northern part of Garfield’s boundary, Hahn added, already choose to drive their students to Nisswa because it’s closer. The boundaries were originally drawn taking into account the smaller size of Nisswa.
The new Baxter Elementary School will have the capacity for 625 students, with 478 enrolled right now. In the end, administrators said the boundary changes will help to even up class sizes in all elementary buildings, reflect each school’s future capacity after renovations and allow for future growth.
To make the transition easier, though, families affected by the boundary changes can choose to keep their children in their current schools for the remainder of the students’ elementary years. As long as students are enrolled in a school for the 2020-21 school year, they can remain in that school through fourth grade while still getting transported by the district.
“There’s quite a few third graders, fourth graders next year. Many of them have been in their buildings since they were kindergarteners, so we didn’t think it was appropriate to make a recommendation of, ‘You don’t have a choice. We’re going to assign you,’ given the fact that the number is pretty small at this point," Hahn said.
Likewise, students starting kindergarten next year who have older siblings will be able to enroll in the same school as their siblings, no matter the boundaries, and still receive district transportation. But if a family has students already in school with younger kids at home who won’t start school until after the 2020-21 year, those younger students will have to abide by the boundaries. Parents will still be able to drive their students to a school of choice, though, provided there is room in the grade level.
Transportation Director Norby Klimek said the boundary changes should flow smoothly for bus routes, especially moving the northern boundary of Garfield to Nisswa, as some of those students have long bus rides to and from Garfield.
Hahn said Tuesday she and administrators were working to call every family affected by the new boundaries — even those who have students in private schools — to explain the changes.
In other business Monday, the school board:
Approved new hires: Renae Czeczok, special education paraprofessional at Lincoln Education Center; Cassandra Daiker, competitive cheer coach at Brainerd High School, Davon Epps, danceline assistant coach at BHS; Tracy Hopperstad, assistant junior high boys tennis coach at Forestview Middle School; Toby Kvalevog, assistant boys hockey coach at BHS; Megan Ostendorf, gymnastics assistant coach at BHS; Landon Snider, assistant girls hockey coach at BHS.
Accepted donations to the district: $500 from Mid Minnesota Federal Credit Union for students in need; $500 from Brainerd Snodoes Inc. for BHS Spanish Club; $500 from Lindar Corp. for BHS robotics team; T-shirts from Lindar Corp. for the Forestview Middle School robotics team; $200 from Landis Gyr for the BHS robotics team.
Discussed the special board meeting/board retreat to take place at 1 p.m. Tuesday, March 17, in Room 200 at the Washington Educational Services Building. No action will be taken during this meeting, but the board plans to discuss several issues.
Changed the time of the April 27 board meeting from 6 p.m. to noon, as the All Sports Banquet is from 6-9 p.m. that night.