Here's what you should know as lakes area students get ready to head back to school

Construction work continues Monday, Aug. 19, at the Nisswa Elementery School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The first day of school for lakes area students is just around the corner.

To help with back-to-school preparation, the Brainerd Dispatch compiled basic information about some area school districts, including any new programs or changes for the upcoming year.

Brainerd School District


Superintendent: Laine Larson.


First day of school: Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Estimated pre-K-12 enrollment: 7,073.

New administrators:

  • Angela Bennett -- director of human resources.

New teachers/staff:

  • Kristine Anderson -- science at Brainerd High School.

  • McKinley Anderson -- special education at Brainerd Learning Center.

  • Sarah Anderson -- early childhood and family education parent educator.

  • Deborah Bell -- special education at Forestview Middle School.

  • Matthew Bergman -- special education at Lincoln Education Center.

  • Michelle Bjorklund -- seventh grade language arts at Forestview.

  • Tonya Dill -- special education at Forestview.

  • Erica Embertson -- speech language pathologist.

  • Sarah Emerson -- art at Brainerd Learning Center.

  • Cody Ewald -- music at Baxter Elementary.

  • Kayelee Freeman -- fourth grade at Baxter.

  • John (Jack) Freeman -- second grade at Baxter.

  • Rachel Friedman -- special education at Forestview.

  • Jeremy Grant -- science at BHS.

  • Amber Kopp -- orchestra director at BHS.

  • Shana Lee -- early childhood special education at Washington.

  • Katie Mains -- special education at Garfield Elementary.

  • Sam Olson -- English at BHS.

  • Tanya Rupp -- music at Lowell Elementary.

  • Rebecca Smieja -- family and consumer sciences at BHS.

  • Amy Smith -- special education at Garfield Elementary.

  • Dawn Snook -- special education at BHS.

  • Gracie Stumpf -- first grade at Baxter.

  • Brady Sykora -- special education at Forestview.

  • Anika Thill -- special education at Baxter.

  • Marie Waschek -- third grade at Garfield.

  • Ana Welu -- early childhood special education at Washington.

  • Karla Zeck -- adult basic education stationed at CLC.

What’s new:

  • All high school students will receive personal Chromebooks from the district. Students will keep the Chromebooks until they graduate and be allowed to bring them home for school work.

  • Forestview Middle School will see a new secure entrance and reconfigured parent pick-up/drop-off areas. It is the first school to have completed updates as a result of the April 2018 referendum. Construction has also begun on Nisswa and Harrison elementary schools, along with the new Baxter Elementary School.

Crosby-Ironton School District


Superintendent: Jamie Skjeveland.


First day of school: Sept. 3.

Estimated pre-K-12 enrollment: 1,000.

New administrators:

  • Jen Strom, high school principal.

New teachers/staff:

  • Gabriele Beniak -- elementary special education.

  • Brittany Barutt -- elementary special education.

  • Steve Hilton -- high school science.

  • Anna Maland -- early childhood special education.

  • Kennedy Niska -- elementary music.

  • Nicole Schmitt -- sixth grade.

  • Stephanie Sension -- elementary special education.

  • Rafael Silva -- band director.

  • Dawn Voss -- high school special education.

What’s new:

  • In the event of severe weather, Crosby-Ironton will have e-learning days. Instead of phone call stating school will be closed, families will get a message saying it is an e-learning day. During the first few months of school, teachers will instruct students on what the expectations will be for e-learning days. The district is permitted to use up to five e-learning days a year.

  • The district will go out for a bond referendum in November, with the primary goal to gain funding to properly maintain school buildings built in 2004. Officials also seek to finish the projects of enclosing elementary school classrooms, modernizing the high school shop classrooms and creating a high school media center space.

Little Falls Community Schools


Superintendent: Stephen Jones.


First day of school: Sept. 3.

Estimated pre-K-12 enrollment: 2,400.

New staff/teachers:

  • Katrina Bigalk.

  • Lisa Brandon.

  • Sandra Briscoe.

  • Haley Chace.

  • Hannah Chapman.

  • Dylan Curto.

  • Andrea Czeck.

  • Kailey (Egan) Czeck.

  • Alicia Gapinski.

  • Nicole Hoheisel.

  • Heidi Lange.

  • Jessica Larson.

  • Sarah Larson.

  • Brett Lawrence.

  • Jordan Leiser.

  • Tiffany Markling.

  • Bonnie Marod.

  • Lauren Martinson.

  • Kirstina Mitberg.

  • Maranda Nelson.

  • Theodora Ramberg.

  • Kassondra Robinson.

  • Raychel Virnig.

  • Angela Watkins.

  • Johanna Weber.

  • Delaney Welle.

  • Karlie Wherley.

Pequot Lakes School District


Superintendent: Chris Lindholm.

First day of school: Sept. 3 for grades 1-12, Sept. 5 for kindergartners.

Estimated pre-K-12 enrollment: 1,760.

New teachers:

  • Abigail Browne -- first grade at Eagle View Elementary.

  • Brooke Falk -- kindergarten at Eagle View.

  • Kristina Johnson -- early childhood family education at Eagle View.

  • Dave Christensen -- high school Spanish and English.

  • Lisa Christensen -- middle and high school English.

  • Alison Falenschek -- middle and high school reliability schools coach.

  • James Foss -- middle and high school science.

  • Brian Homa -- middle school health and physical education.

  • Dawn Kaelke -- middle and high school business.

  • Alexis Melby -- middle and high school math.

What’s new:

  • The district added four teaching positions and two professional development positions to support its enrollment growth, the biggest of which is seen in the high school.

  • The district is continuing to work toward certifying its schools as High Reliability Schools through Marzano Resources, meaning the schools have met certain progressive levels of performance. Pequot Lakes Middle School is already certified.

Pillager School District


Superintendent: Mike Malmberg.

First day of school: Wednesday, Aug. 28.

Estimated K-12 enrollment: 1,200.

New teachers/staff:

  • Elizabeth Busch -- early childhood.

  • Jayme Finstad -- special education.

  • Kent Anicke -- elementary and middle school physical education.

  • Audrey Schleper -- agricultural education.

  • Tatum Sheley -- middle school math.

  • Kayla Thompson -- human resources director.

  • Conner Uselman -- special education.

What’s new:

  • The school day will begin at 8:20 a.m. and end at 3:10 p.m. The additional minutes will allow for more instruction time with the middle and high schools moving to a seven-period day versus the six-period day used in the past. The seven-period day will allow for another section of general classes that will help lower class sizes and provide more elective offerings.

  • Elementary and district staff members continue to work on standardized grading and reporting to help ensure student success by improving classroom instruction and informing families of relevant and much-needed feedback to better meet the needs of students. The elementary report card will consist of standards versus grades.

  • All middle school students will have the opportunity to participate in a PRIDE Hour each day, during which they will have character education lessons related to a variety of topics. Students will also have several options to choose from throughout this time, including working on homework, if needed. This is also a perfect time to complete missing work, relearn material or retake a test. A wide variety of enrichment options will also be available related to all content areas. For example, students can use PRIDE Hour to prepare for the annual Husky Spelling Bee, work on a science fair project, prepare for a Math Masters competition, study for the eighth grade National Geographic Geography Bee, perfect a work of art or simply read their favorite book.

  • To best meet the needs of ninth grade students, the district will provide a Freshman PRIDE Academy. Throughout each week, freshman students will benefit from a rotation of classes focused on organization/note taking, health/character education, math skill assistance, English class assistance and a check and connect day to check grades and consistently connect with one teacher. The Freshman PRIDE Academy aims to help students thrive throughout this exciting, yet challenging, year and prepare them to succeed throughout the rest of their high school career.

Pine River-Backus School District


Superintendent: Dave Endicott.

First day of school: Sept. 3.

Estimated pre-K-12 enrollment: 935.

New administrators:

  • Kevin Furst -- district technology coordinator.

New teachers/staff:

  • Derek Bebeau -- 5th-12th grade music.

  • Conner Guetter -- 5th-6th grade math.

  • Brenda Helmrichs -- 5th-6th grade math intervention.

  • Jamie Rugroden -- high school special education.

  • Steve Sandeen -- career and technical education.

Staples-Motley School District


Superintendent: Shane Tappe.

First day of school: Sept. 3.

Estimated pre-K-12 enrollment: 1,060.

New administrators:

  • Shane Tappe -- superintendent.

  • Blake Boran -- activities and community education director.

New teachers/staff:

  • Carly Bell -- kindergarten.

  • Maggie Borg -- school social work intern.

  • Liz Capistrant -- elementary special education.

  • Marn Elvehjem -- math.

  • Kristina Haataja -- orchestra.

  • Lauren Hayes -- elementary special education.

  • Yesenia Lopez Ibarra -- speech language pathologist.

  • Kassie Marthaler -- school readiness.

  • Kim Prestridge -- elementary student success coordinator.

  • Joe Ramstad -- agriculture.

  • Tony Spandl -- high school physical education.

  • Mark Speckien -- science.

  • Heather Wiegand -- second grade.

What’s new:

  • This school year will come with new building reconfiguration. Fifth through twelfth grades will be housed at Staples-Motley High School in Staples, while kindergarten through fourth grade will stay at Staples-Motley Elementary School in Staples. All early education will be at the Staples-Motley Early Education Center in Motley.

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