Our Opinion: A step in the right direction
As the Brainerd School District begins finalization of a facilities improvement plan to present to voters in a referendum this coming spring, it's encouraging to see that district officials are listening to the neighborhoods they serve.
On Monday the Brainerd School Board voted 5-1 to build a new Baxter Elementary School, which appears is wanted by Baxter residents, and to repurpose existing elementary schools in the district. That includes Harrison Elementary School, for which there was an early proposal to relocate—a move the residents in that neighborhood didn't want.
This was information gleaned by district officials during listening sessions this past spring at all of its schools. The people spoke, and district officials listened. That encouraging, especially when it comes to Harrison. As a school with definite needed upgrades and improvements, it still would have been devastating for southeast Brainerd to lose that community anchor.
As to the proposed sites for a new Baxter Elementary School, we hope the board will seriously consider 38 acres near Forestview Middle School instead of Forestview property itself. While the Forestview property would seem the more feasible choice, it would be a shame to lose a third of the Forestview forest for the elementary school.
We also appreciate the district planning for Early Childhood Family Education programs in the district. With so many unknowns regarding Pre-K funding at the state level, we commend the district for being proactive.
The board's decisions on elementary schools are a step in the right direction, but it is just one piece of the puzzle district officials will need to work out. The biggest will be finalizing a plan, determining the costs and figuring how much of that cost the district will be asking residents to bear.
There's no question several of Brainerd's schools are badly in need of upgrades and improvements. The issue will always come down to money, and the district needs to present options it believes will be palatable to a majority of residents.
So far district officials have been up front about proposals, and have been willing to listen to the concerns of residents and adjust accordingly. That gives us hope that, as the process continues, common ground can be found for all and the needs of our schools can be taken care of now and for the future.