Lowell Elementary dedication: ‘Don’t ever give up on yourselves’
Principal Todd Sauer and other school officials spoke of never giving on dreams during the school's dedication ceremony Monday, April 25.
BRAINERD — Never giving up on dreams served as the theme for a dedication ceremony at Lowell Elementary School Monday, April 25.
The first of the Brainerd Public Schools buildings to be dedicated after the last couple of years of building projects, Lowell Elementary underwent a remodel that included a new gymnasium addition; new administrative suite; a two-story classroom addition; learning commons for each grade; art, science, technology and media spaces; flexible classroom space and remodeled special education rooms.
“When I look at the dedication, it really is about a dream,” said Lowell Principal Todd Sauer on Monday to the group of students, staff and community members gathered in the new gym. “It was about a dream that we had as a community, as a school.”
That dream took the shape of a 2018 bonding referendum, with voter-approved funds dedicated to updates and remodels at the district’s buildings and a new elementary school in Baxter. While many of the projects reached final completion during the COVID-19 pandemic, various restrictions meant the dedication ceremonies couldn’t take place until now.
Though the work started about four years ago, Sauer’s vision for the school began even before that.
“One of my dreams was to do exactly what we have right here, about six years ago,” Sauer said. “I still remember the day I talked to the staff at a staff meeting about a dream I had, and the dream I had was to create a school that had a lot of fun things for kids, it was fun to teach in. … And so we started writing down all the things that we were dreaming.”
Superintendent Laine Larson recalled the day she sat down with Sauer in his office six years ago, not long after she started her tenure in Brainerd, and learned about his vision. Larson asked for a round of applause for Sauer and for his staff at Lowell for working to achieve the vision.
That work is also thanks to the community, which agreed to invest in the schools.
“This morning’s celebration is a highlight and a tangible reminder of the public commitment to your education,” Larson told the students. “This beautiful Lowell Elementary is the result of a community who had an unwavering commitment to the highest quality education for each and every one of you kids that are sitting here today.”
The district’s taxpayers should be proud of that commitment and investment, said Parent Teacher Association President Jessica Gangl, as the return will be great.
Brainerd Mayor Dave Badeaux also emphasized the community’s part in the project and told students how important it is for them to be involved.
“It’s super important for us to be a part of our community because there are people in our community that need our help,” Badeaux said. “So as you guys are growing up, and you live here and you play here and you go to school here, one of the things I want you to remember is that everyone else that is here is a part of a bigger group, right? We’re all part of the same community, and it’s super important that we give back.”
Like Larson, School Board Vice Chair Charles Black Lance spoke of Sauer’s vision for Lowell — a school that is near and dear to Black Lance’s heart as the place his three children attended.
“My whole time being a parent here and having kids going to your school is we always had fantastic staff,” Black Lance told the kids. “We always had fantastic leadership here, and now we have fantastic facilities, gyms, classrooms, playground here at Lowell school.”
Those new facilities are going to make their way into the memories and stories of children, staff and parents for years to come, third grade teacher Erin Karlgaard said Monday.
“As we dedicate this new place today, I think ahead to all the stories that are yet to be written within our spaces — stories of students learning things they never dreamed they’d discover in places that were designed to reimagine what school and learning looks like,” Karlgaard said.
“... And most of all, stories of our family here, of how we care for each other, how we always do our best so that everyone who walks through our doors feels welcomed and loved. So as we dedicate the gift of this amazing new space today that was given for all of you kids, we also dedicate ourselves to helping write the stories of all those who come through these doors in the future.”
Among those stories being written in the new building is that of fourth grader Justus Anderson, who represented the students at Monday’s ceremony, speaking of the improvements he was excited about, like a bigger gym and lockers, classrooms with a lot of windows and Smart Boards and other technology updates.
“The changes to the building and learning have all been amazing,” Anderson said, “but more importantly, the things that have always been great about Lowell will remain the same, like Principal Sauer, our teachers and the staff who care about each one of us and create a safe and fun place for all students to learn and grow.”
After the speeches, Anderson took a pair of oversized blue scissors to cut a ribbon, symbolically signaling the school’s dedication, which will also be commemorated with a large plaque bearing the names of those involved in the project, including school board members, district staff and the design team of professionals from ICS, Widseth, JLG Architects, Obernel Engineering and Northland Consulting Engineers.
Fourth graders then sang “Don’t Give Up On Me” in honor of the occasion, and Sauer finished out the celebration with some parting words: “It took all of you not giving up on us and giving up on our dreams because, kids, you are so much the future of what we are doing, and you’re going to have people always telling you to give up. But don’t ever give up on yourselves, and always rely on each other.”