Tour offers inside look at BHS project as construction on school, performing arts center progresses

A tour group checks out the new construction at Brainerd High School Monday, Feb. 24. About 25 school board members, district staff and members of the public showed up for the tour. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Classrooms and music areas are taking shape as construction progresses at Brainerd High School and the new adjacent performing arts center.

About 25 school board members, district staff, community members and construction managers clad in hard hats and yellow reflective vests traipsed through muddy ground on a tour of the high school north campus construction project Monday, Feb. 24.

New health and wellness classrooms underneath the current main-level swimming pool are almost complete, save for some cosmetic work along with heating, cooling, air conditioning and ventilation.

The swimming pool will transform into a multipurpose gym, as the B wing on the south side of the building, which the tour group walked through, will eventually be demolished to make way for a new eight-lane competition swimming pool.


A tour group of Brainerd School Board members, district staff and members of the public traipse through the mud to look at the Brainerd High School construction project Monday, Feb. 24. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

Project manager Scott Whittemore walked the group through the new special education classrooms for students with emotional and behavioral disorders who qualify for Level III special education services, meaning they are outside the regular classroom for more than 60% of the day. The classrooms are on the west side of the building with large windows overlooking Adamson Field.

Also included in that wing is a PAES lab, or practical assessment exploration system, which is a hands-on work lab. In the lab, students act as workers in various trades, learning vocational skills in a business-like setting.

A quick trip through the newly constructed main entrance on the east side of the building showed floor-ceiling windows. The group also walked through a new addition on the north side that is to house math and special education classrooms.

And not far away is perhaps the most dramatic and noticeable change to Brainerd High School — the performing arts center. The 1,200-seat auditorium attached to the north side of the high school will be a community space, available for school productions and concerts, as well as for performers from all over the region. Whittemore guided the tour through the walled area that will become orchestra, band and choir rehearsal spaces, and showed guests how the auditorium is coming along. Exclamations of “wow” echoed throughout, as tour-goers marveled at the high ceiling of the auditorium and could see concrete markers denoting where the seats will be placed and how high the balcony will be.

A free-standing elevator shaft resides outside the current walls as construction continues.

An elevator shaft stands freely near the performing arts center under construction on the north end of Brainerd High School. A group tours the construction projects Monday, Feb. 24. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch


Superintendent Laine Larson noted how different the project looks since she saw it just a few weeks ago. Whittemore said it visibly changes every day.

Aside from the addition of the performing arts center, the main goal of the BHS construction project is to house all students under one roof on north campus. The south campus will become home to transitional and special education programs, along with all programming now housed at the Lincoln Education Center.

Both the BHS north campus and the performing arts center are scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2021.

The board will take a bus tour of the Nisswa, Harrison and new Baxter elementary school projects at 2:30 p.m. March 23. Those interested in attending must RSVP to 218-454-6912 by March 19. The group will meet in the back parking lot at the Washington Educational Services Building.

In other construction business Monday, the board:

  • Awarded the contract for mechanical work at Lowell Elementary School to Thelen Heating and Roofing at a cost of $2.9 million. The mechanical work was not approved with the other contract earlier in February, as project managers redesigned the scope of work after bids were solicited.

  • Approved a proposal from HyTec Construction to add bar joists to the roof at Nisswa Elementary School, not to exceed $67,221. An electric routing proposal from Design Electric for the project will come in the future and is expected to be less than $50,000.

Upcoming tour opportunity

  • What: Bus tour of the Nisswa, Harrison and new Baxter elementary school projects with the Brainerd School Board.

  • When: 2:30 p.m. March 23.

How to participate: Those interested in attending must RSVP to 218-454-6912 by March 19. The group will meet in the back parking lot at the Washington Educational Services Building.


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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