School COVID-19 cases on the decline as approaching spring plans stay on track

There were 178 Brainerd students quarantined as of Tuesday, April 27, which is nearly 100 fewer than two weeks prior.

School Board - April 28.JPG
Brainerd School Board members discuss matters during their special meeting Wednesday, April 28, livestreamed via YouTube. Screenshot by Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

COVID-19 cases are trending downward at Brainerd Public Schools, a hopeful sign for this spring’s end-of-the-year events to occur as planned.

“We continue to schedule these events and celebrations, but we’re making sure that those safety protocols remain in place, that we’re making sure capacity limits are also being followed,” Human Resources Director Angie Bennett told the school board Wednesday, April 28.

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Though Bennett reported 178 students quarantined as of Tuesday, April 27, that number has dropped from 272 just two weeks ago. Ten students and three staff members had COVID-19 as of Tuesday, and 13 staff members were in quarantine. And while there are quite a few students still in quarantine, Bennett said there do not appear to be multiple positive cases resulting from the quarantine groups.

“We just continue to request support from staff, students and community members to help us stay in person throughout the remainder of the school year,” Bennett said.

Spring events

Senior Recognition Night is still scheduled for May 5 but will now take place in two shifts in the auditorium at Forestview Middle School, instead of at the new performing arts center. Students with last names A-L will begin at 5:30 p.m., and M-Z will start at 7:15 p.m. to allow for social distancing.


The performing arts center — which has yet to be named — will host its first event May 6 with the opening of the high school musical “Oklahoma!,” running through May 9.

The Fine Arts Awards Banquet is set for 7 p.m. May 19, also at the performing arts center.

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Graduation ceremonies will begin May 20, with Lincoln Education Center’s ceremony at noon on site and the Brainerd Learning Center following at 4 p.m. at Tornstrom Auditorium. Capacities will be limited for both events.

Brainerd High School graduation is set for 7 p.m. May 21 at Adamson Field, with the goal of being able to have just one ceremony for all students together, Superintendent Laine Larson said. Prom will occur the following night at the Northern Pacific Center. The last day of in-person classes for seniors will be May 11, with them finishing out the year in distance learning to allow for a 10-day quarantine window — if needed — before graduation.

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The official grand opening for the performing arts center is May 26, though the capacity is limited to 355 right now. Larson said she hopes restrictions may loosen by then, but otherwise it will be a first-come, first-served basis.

Board Chair Bob Nystrom encouraged the public to get tickets to “Oklahoma!” as a way to see the performing arts center before the grand opening and support the students in what he said would be a “wonderful musical and theatrical performance.”

In other business Wednesday, the board:


Thanked Dutch and Irma Cragun for donating $100,000 to the district to purchase a concert grand piano for the performing arts center. The model purchased is a 9-foot Steinway Model 9.

Thanked Steve and Cindy Clough of Just for Kix for donating $75,000 to the district for multi-purpose room upgrades at the high school.

Accepted a donation of $725 from the Nisswa Parent Teacher Organization for the butterfly sanctuary at Nisswa Elementary School

Congratulated the Knowledge Bowl teams for finishing 15th and 21st out of 48 teams at the state competition.

Congratulated Larson for being elected as president of the Minnesota Association of School Administrators. Brainerd has not had a superintendent serve in this position since the 1916-17 school year.

Authorized new hires: Joel Anderson, assistant director special education at the Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative; Anna Carbajal, districtwide English as a second language teacher; Amy Guardipee, special education teacher at Riverside Elementary School; Azure Hogate, third grade teacher at Lowell Elementary School; Lauren Johnson; fifth and sixth grade specific learning disability teacher at Forestview Middle School; Nancy Sturlaugson, deaf and hard of hearing teacher at Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative; Katie Sweney and Jaiden Wentz, occupational therapists at Paul Bunyan Education Cooperative; Cylie Backstrom, child care program assistant; Jenny Barnhart, building administrative assistant at Brainerd Learning Center; Bailey DeMarais, assistant lacrosse coach at Brainerd High School; Maritza Larsen, childcare program assistant; Kennedy Malone, community education enrichment instructor/coach; MacKenzie Sailer, districtwide benefits specialist; and Michael Smith, performing arts facilities technical coordinator.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

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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