In the middle of a districtwide facilities revamp, the Brainerd School District is turning its attention to the Washington Education Services Building.
It’s the last item on the list after voters approved a $205 million bonding referendum in 2018, consultants noted during a Brainerd School Board meeting Monday, July 19, but it doesn’t look like the aging administrative building will get the kind of facelift facilities like Harrison, Garfield or Nisswa enjoyed. At 91 years old, Washington — which houses the district’s administrative offices, as well as some facilities for specialized education — would need $28 million to address all the lingering issues at this time.
There isn’t enough money in the bank right now for that, said Reid Thiesse, director of buildings and grounds, and so district officials have to prioritize what renovations should get done first.
“We're looking at about $28 million for what the construction value would be today,” Thiesse said. “OK, well, we don't have $28 million in remaining project funds, so the challenge is now how do we get all of the necessary things done? … I think that's the challenge we have in front of us here is how far do we want to take that list.”
Two major points of focus included Washington’s aging heating, ventilation and air conditioning system and the placement of a new student drop-off entrance, as students currently enter the facility on Oak Street where fast-moving traffic passes and safety hazards are present. Other areas of need included implementing Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms, deferred maintenance, beefed up security and other modernizing initiatives.
Consultants presented six different scenarios, or packages of improvements the district could pursue, ranging from Scenario 1 at $5 million, to Scenario 5, which would cost as high as $28.5 million. These options differ in the scope of the project, with certain amenities or areas of the building excluded or included depending. Board members gravitated toward options in the mid-range, Scenario 3 at $12.2 million and Scenario 4 at $14.07 million. Ultimately, the board voted unanimously to back Scenario 4, while directing staff to try to trim the final price tag down to $13.5 million. This package includes moving the student entrance to the safer rear of the building and upgrading the HVAC system, but excluding the third floor for the latter.
“We're looking at about $28 million for what the construction value would be today. Okay, well, we don't have $28 million in remaining project funds, so the challenge is now how do we get all of the necessary things done? … I think that's the challenge we have in front of us here is how far do we want to take that list.”
— Reid Thiesse, grounds and buildings director
Board members emphasized the importance of the project, often in terms of safety as it pertains to the well-being of students who’ll walk Washington’s halls.
“I'm sure all of you heard it on the news about how many districts that worried about their air quality after what's happened with COVID and you need much better air quality,” board member Ruth Nelson said. “In this building we have some of our most vulnerable kids downstairs and so they deserve the best air quality we can give them.”
“This has been delayed maintenance for way too long,” board member Bob Nystrom said. “This is a 91-year-old building. It has really been left on the wayside and yet the community of Brainerd really treasures this building, and it really needs this maintenance, including the air quality.”
In other business, the board:
Approved a public hearing set for the regular school board meeting at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 9, to consider granting tax abatements for some district properties.
Approved an infrastructure proposal by Sourcewell for a mill and overlay reconstruction of parking and sidewalks at Forestview Middle School not to exceed $369,816.31.
Approved the 2021-22 student handbooks for high school, middle school and elementary school students.
Approved a sports medicine services contract with Essentia Health for five years, plus a one-time donation of $50,000, based on approval by the district’s legal counsel.
Approved a renewal of membership for 2021-22 in the Minnesota State High School League.
Approved a one-year contract with Kemps for the district’s 2021-22 milk plan.
Approved a one-year contract with Pan-O-Gold Bakery for the district’s 2021-22 bread plan.
Approved setting meal prices for 2021-22, with pre-K to grade 12 priced at $0 and adult breakfasts priced at $3 and adult lunches priced at $5. Under a joint agreement with the federal government, students will receive free breakfast and lunch through the Seamless, Summer Option for school year 2021-22 as a response to COVID-19. Extra milk is priced at 45 cents.
Approved the first reading of a revision to the renewing Minnesota School Board Association policy 421. For the policy that pertains to gifts to employees/staff and potential conflicts of interest, the revision defines financial interest as “any ownership or control in an asset which has the potential to produce monetary return.”
Approved a mental health services contract with Northern Pines Mental Health Center Inc. for Lincoln Education Center, the Brainerd High School lunchroom and district social workers between July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.
Approved a joint construction funding agreement with Sourcewell in the amount of $5.2 million to be applied to the Brainerd High School south campus reconstruction project.
Approved naming the superintendent, Laine Larson, as the official local education authority for the Minnesota Department of Education for federal and state certification purposes.