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Harrison Safe Routes project set for this summer

The project to increase pedestrian safety near Harrison Elementary School will take place this summer.

People drive past Harrison School on Oak Street.
Harrison Elementary School in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD โ€” Work is set to begin this summer on a Safe Routes to School project at Harrison Elementary School in Brainerd.

The federal Safe Routes to School program aims to identify improvements that can be made around schools to develop safe access for students who walk and bike to school. Brainerd Public Schools have already seen projects of this nature at Lowell and Garfield elementary schools. These projects are funded through the Minnesota Department of Transportation, so the school district is not responsible for the cost.

Brainerd School Board members approved right-of-way and construction easements during their meeting Monday, April 10, allowing the city of Brainerd to solicit bids for the project this spring so that work can begin in the summer.

The perpetual right-of-way easement gives the city of Brainerd access to five feet on the south end of the block where the school is located to construct the improvements, explained Reid Thiesse, director of buildings and grounds at Brainerd Public Schools.

The temporary construction easement will allow for the installation of the projectโ€™s utility infrastructure, including rapid flash beacon signals that will be installed on Oak Street.

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โ€œI can state their effectiveness in the project that we installed on Laurel Street when I was with Crow Wing County,โ€ Thiesse said of the rapid flash signals. โ€œTheyโ€™re a very effective traffic control measure.โ€

Along with the new signals, the project will see a pedestrian crossing median on Oak Street between Southeast 15th and 16th streets as both a traffic calming measure and to provide an island for those crossing the street. To accommodate this change, on-street parking will be removed on the north side of Oak Street from Southeast 15th Street to roughly 150 feet west and from Southeast 16th Street to roughly 150 feet east. This change will have little effect on the east side of the road, which is adjacent to the school parking lot, but will result in the loss of on-street parking for two properties on the west side. One of those properties is a corner property and will still have on-street parking on Southeast 15th Street, while the other will be limited to alley parking.

Also included in the plans are slight curb adjustments at the crossing locations to bump out the curbs and narrowing the crossing distance.

Board members approved the easements with little discussion Monday.

In other business Monday, the board:

  • Approved new hires to the district: Stephanie LaFave, summer targeted services teacher at Baxter Elementary; Emily Museus, early childhood special education coordinator at Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative; Danielle Addison, nurse at Warrior Early Learning Center; Ashly Erickson, educational assistant at Baxter Elementary; Dianel Anderson and Jacqueline Silver, districtwide substitute teachers; Roxanne Kruchten, districtwide substitute custodian; Jacqueline Lindberg and Ariana Matakis, districtwide substitute nurses; Nancy Quick, districtwide substitute education assistant; Helene Danielson, STEM adviser at Forestview Middle School; Shelby Fitch, districtwide program assistant; Ruby Hopp, assistant varsity girls lacrosse coach; Maggie Judd, Fun โ€˜Nโ€™ Friends program assistant at Riverside Elementary; Jacob Mitchell, assistant boys tennis coach; Todd Watson, athletic official at Forestview; Emily Zapzalka, districtwide Fun โ€˜Nโ€™ Friends program assistant.
  • Approved a field trip request for the BHS jazz ensemble to participate in a jazz festival at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire April 21-23.
  • Approved a field trip request for the BHS a capella choir to attend the Gateway Music Festivals and Tours in Ireland during spring break in 2024.

Voted not to renew contracts with seven non-tenured teachers: Lauren Crenna, Kelsey Deutz, Madeline Hastings, Chloe Hawks, Lori Howe, Amanda Reyes and Sarah Vang. Reasons for the non-renewal include federal funding allocations, changes in the number of class sections and the desire to hire teachers certified in specific areas, as some positions are currently filled with teachers who are teaching outside their areas of expertise due to shortages. The teachers have been encouraged to apply for other positions within the district.

Headline News from the Brainerd Dispatch

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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