While the Brainerd School District scrambles to overhaul its curricula for hybrid learning this 2020-21 school year, it may be easy to forget the district’s facilities have been getting a significant overhaul of their own.

Voters approved a $205 million bond referendum in April 2018 and while 2020 has been an unusual year full of upheaval, crews continue to work in what is now the midway point of a four-year districtwide construction initiative. During the Brainerd School Board meeting Monday, Sept. 14, Damien Williams, a project manager with ICS, gave a status update on construction projects affecting many major facilities in the district.

“Local contractors and our team successfully installed about $39.5 million of construction in the last 16 weeks — no easy task,” Williams said. “August was a challenging month, but we really want to commend the district staff. They’ve done a great job working with our teams, getting these buildings ready for school. We couldn’t be happier with the results.”

Brainerd school board members Bob Nystrom, (left), Sue Kern and Ruth Nelson listen to Scott Whittemore with ICS talk about the construction Monday, Sept. 14, in the new performing arts center at the Brainerd High School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Brainerd school board members Bob Nystrom, (left), Sue Kern and Ruth Nelson listen to Scott Whittemore with ICS talk about the construction Monday, Sept. 14, in the new performing arts center at the Brainerd High School. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Among the highlights, Williams noted that after renovations Garfield, Nisswa, Harrison and the new Baxter elementary school buildings are now occupied, with only a few small-scale finishing projects, mostly on the external parts of the building, to complete. While still far from completion, portions of Brainerd High School are now occupied and the crew broke ground on the 36-foot dig that will house the facility’s pool. The project is expected to commence at the Warrior Early Learning Center — overhauling the old Baxter Elementary School — with an expected start date of Sept. 29 this year. Crews continue to install new infrastructure at Riverside Elementary School and Lowell Elementary School, with roofing, electrical, plumbing and air ducts constituting a common area of focus at this time.

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Board member Charles Black Lance noted the new Baxter Elementary School facility is a resounding success — at least, in the eyes of his son.

“I don't want to be overly dramatic with this, but I have a 9-year-old son who’s in fourth grade at Baxter Elementary School, and you have the two thumbs up,” Black Lance said. “A beautiful building.”

Black Lance asked if there would be any gender neutral bathrooms in Brainerd High School. In response, project manager Scott Whittemore said there would be single-use bathrooms throughout the facility.

Board member Bob Nystrom had effusive praise for the architectural-engineering teams behind these various projects and lauded them for their dedication above and beyond stipulations in a contract.

“I just want to thank you and your team for the excellent work that you guys have done, it is phenomenal,” Nystrom said. “When you told me the story today about how some of the project managers did work where a contractor had failed on their own time — I mean, that is dedication and hard work! Thank you, I’m very grateful.”

In other business, the board:

Approved the hirings of Ben Anderson, a COVID-19 substitute teacher at Forestview Middle School; Sarah Anderson, an Early Childhood Family Education parent educator at the Brainerd Learning Center; Rena Bolt, an ECFE parent educator at the Brainerd Learning Center; Joseph Broadbent, a districtwide substitute teacher; Delia Bruggeman, a COVID-19 transfer substitute teacher for Baxter Elementary School; Kyle Crocker, a COVID-19 substitute teacher at Forestview Middle School; Katie Erickson, a Level III transfer teacher for Baxter Elementary School; Michele Feyder, an ECFE parent educator at Brainerd Learning Center; Andrea Hamad, a Level III transfer teacher for Baxter Elementary School; Curt Hoffman, a COVID-19 substitute teacher at Forestview Middle School; Hilary Johnson, a COVID-19 substitute teacher at Nisswa Elementary School; Kathy Kidd, a COVID-19 temporary support teacher for Lowell Elementary School; Liz Loven, a COVID-19 substitute teacher for Baxter Elementary School; Jim Mattes, a COVID-19 substitute teacher at Forestview Middle School; Hannah Peters, a COVID-19 substitute teacher Forestview Middle School; Travis Saulsbury, a COVID-19 substitute teacher for Nisswa Elementary School; Briana Sand, a substitute kindergarten teacher at Riverside Elementary School; Jeff Sipper, a COVID-19 substitute teacher at Baxter Elementary School; Julia Stevens, a kindergarten substitute teacher at Garfield Elementary School; Christine Tangen, the lead special education teacher at Baxter Elementary Teacher; Amanda Toft, a visual arts teacher at Brainerd Learning Center and Brainerd High School; and Beth Wroolie, a districtwide COVID-19 substitute teacher.

Approved the third and final reading of Minnesota School Board Association Policy No. 808 regarding face coverings.

Approved the third and final reading of Minnesota School Board Association Policy No. 410 with regard to family medical leave.

Approved a contract with General Security Service Corp. for 2.5 security officers at Brainerd High School for the 2020-21 school year.

Approved a second reading of the Minnesota School Board Association Policy Policy No. 902 regarding school facilities and equipment. The policy provides guidelines for district employees, students and community members to use Brainerd School District facilities and equipment.



GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at gabe.lagarde@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5859. Follow at www.twitter.com/glbrddispatch.