Warrior Early Learning Center is the name that will sit atop the Brainerd School District’s new early childhood center in Baxter.
Brainerd School Board members chose the name during their meeting Monday, March 23, breaking a tie with the top two choices.
Community members were invited to suggest names at the beginning of the naming process. Community Education Director Cori Reynolds said there were 70 submissions but many repeats, amounting to about five or six general categories.
A committee composed of Superintendent Laine Larson, early childhood staff and an early childhood parent narrowed the pool down to three names — Lakeview Early Childhood Center, Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Center and Warrior Early Learning Center.
The early childhood center will be in a remodeled version of the current Baxter Elementary School on Fairview Road.
A total of 306 community members voted on the top three choices. Voters included district residents, parents, students, staff, alumni and a parent of alumni.
Lakeview Early Childhood Center garnered 51 votes, while the other two choices tied at 127, leaving the ultimate decision up to the school board.
Some voters supplied feedback about each option as well. For the Lakeview option, some noted there is not a clear view of a lake from the facility, except for when the Maplewood parking lot floods, as one Baxter teacher noted.
Others said Lakeview is the name of another school in Minnesota or that it reminds them of Lakewood Health System in Staples.
Some said Brainerd Lakes Area Early Childhood Center is a good representation of the community but is long. Many said “area” was not necessary in the name, and others said the acronym BLAECC is too close to BLAEDC, which is used by the Brainerd Lakes Area Economic Development Corp. Board member Charles Black Lance said that name feels commercial, like something the business community would use, and it loses the ISD 181 identity.
Reynolds said the committee intentionally included the word “area” in that option so it would be inclusive of the whole area the school district covers. She also said the acronym would likely be pronounced like “Blake.”
Many voters said they liked the idea of having the Warrior mascot included in the early childhood center so even the youngest students can develop that shared identity with the rest of the district. Others, however, said the word “warrior” sounds too harsh for an early childhood center. Thinking in terms of acronyms, some voters said WELC would be the easiest, as BLAECC is long, and LECC is too close to that of the Lincoln Education Center.
A few voters suggested altering the last choice to Little Warriors Early Learning Center, which board member Ruth Nelson said she liked a lot.
Board member Bob Nystrom, who attended the meeting via teleconference, asked if Baxter could be in the name to easily identify the location. Reynolds cautioned against using a specific city in the name because it’s a facility students and families all across the district will use.
“I can tell you that we struggle to make sure that our friends in Nisswa know that they’re part of the school district, and I would imagine we would increase those difficulties if we went with a name that was specific to one community that we serve,” she said.
Black Lance said he felt Warrior Early Learning Center was the most inclusive. He mentioned branding conversations earlier this year among board members when they discussed whether Warrior was a term all students could identify with, regardless of being an athlete. Allowing students to identify with the mascot early on, he said, could help strengthen that shared identity.
“It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with athletic prowess or whatnot,” Black Lance said.
Board member Sue Kern also said she felt using Warrior promotes unity.
Larson said she leaned toward Warrior Early Learning Center partially because she liked the word “learning” in the name.
As discussion went on, Nystrom said he was coming around to Warrior Early Learning Center, and board members unanimously agreed on that for the name.
Construction on the Warrior Early Learning Center is set to begin in fall 2020 and be completed in 2021.