Elementary students in Brainerd 70 years ago likely never dreamed their grandchildren one day could be sitting in the same classroom.
The eight elementary schools in the Brainerd School District are about 50 to 70 years old. The age and design of the buildings have caused space constraints and safety concerns.
The Brainerd School Board Long-Range Planning Committee has spent three years studying the educational needs in the buildings. The committee plans to discuss these needs next week in two four-hour meetings.
School officials, together with Kevin Donnay and John Luce of Widseth, Smith and Nolting, assessed the elementary buildings. They found all the buildings require more space for classrooms and storage.
The buildings also need upgrades in the mechanical systems -- the heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC) -- to improve air quality. A majority of the HVAC systems are as old as the original portions of the buildings. The three main ventilation concerns are radon levels, kitchen exhaust and classroom air quality.
Plumbing systems in the buildings are failing. The pipes have accumulated so much mineral buildup that water flow has been constricted.
Other building needs include upgrading electrical systems, especially to handle technology needs; making boiler rooms compliant with electrical code requirements; adding more parking space; improving lighting systems to allow higher output lamps; and installing better outdoor security lighting.
Multilevel buildings require handicapped accessible improvements. The cost of an elevator, including installation and any remodeling, is about $225,000.
Many of the schools don't have adequate public address systems to quickly notify students and staff of emergency notices.
Although many problems are common in every building, each building has its own special needs.
Baxter Elementary School would be the most expensive elementary building to remodel at an estimated $1.97 million.
The population in Baxter is growing and the number of students attending the school is stressing the instructional programs with growing class sizes in limited space. The state education department guidelines recommend a 10- to 15-acre site for a school of 600-plus students. The Baxter site is 3.3 acres. The school has 616 students.
More space is required for small group instruction and volunteers who work with children; students must pass through or by other classrooms to get to some classrooms; and more space is needed for a gymnasium, for storage and outdoor recreation.
There is poor ventilation and excess heat in the upper level reading lab and special education classrooms. The gymnasium and shower rooms do not have heat.
Garfield Elementary School, which was last expanded in 1992, has average classroom space. More space is needed for a computer area, kindergarten classrooms, lunchroom, kitchen, staff lounge and teacher/support staff work areas and storage.
Some of the classrooms have insufficient lighting and the gymnasium and cafeteria have poor ventilation. The roof should be replaced within five years.
Harrison Elementary School has the greatest need for additional space and has the weakest electrical system, said Superintendent Jerry Walseth.
All the classrooms are undersized and instructional space has been set up in the basement. The cafeteria, music area and one kindergarten room are too small. The greatest space needs are for small group work areas and special education rooms.
The building needs masonry repairs, gym floor refining and cafeteria remodeling.
Engineers found the bus loading site should be relocated because the gas exhaust fumes from school buses flow into the unit ventilators along Oak Street.
Lincoln Elementary School is surrounded by busy streets that pose many safety issues. All the classrooms are undersized and the basement and hallways are used for instruction. More room is required for outdoor activities, in-school suspension and a time-out room.
The school is used year-round because of the Fun and Friends program. Structural work is needed to restore masonry, upgrade windows, improve restrooms, remodel administrative areas for security and privacy purposes and to construct an entry area.
Lowell Elementary School has limited space for special education, collaborative service workers and small group work. Classrooms are undersized. Some classes meet in the teacher's lounge.
More lockers are required. Currently, the students share lockers, causing health concerns.
There also is a need for a larger principal's office for private conferences with students, parents and staff. The lunchroom and gymnasium are too small and a storage room is wanted.
Other areas recommended for improvement are the student pick-up and drop-off site, which is congested, and the building exterior, which is deteriorating.
Nisswa Elementary School has a community library grand opening Thursday. The addition has added space to the building. More space is needed, though, for indoor recreation, cafeteria, music room, special education rooms, staff work area, storage, nurse's office and administrative areas.
The kindergarten and fifth-grade classrooms are crowded. Officials report there is room to add more classrooms, which would in turn place stress on the gymnasium and special education spaces.
The Reading Recovery classrooms are housed in a small room and have poor ventilation.
Improvements are recommended for exterior walls, roof and windows.
Riverside Elementary School has a small lunchroom and computer lab and lacks storage and group space. The media center has adequate space, but there are ventilation problems in the computer lab and on the south side of the building.
Acoustic work in the gymnasium is desired to lower the noise to acceptable standards for teaching and learning, school officials report.
Principal Cathy Engler would like to add an all-day, every-day kindergarten program and another computer lab to accommodate the large student population.
The roof over the original portion of the school needs work.
A safer drop-off site for students is wanted.
Whittier Elementary School needs additional space for special education. Currently, the special needs students are taught in the basement, which has poor ventilation.
Other concerns include: Hallways are used for instruction; there is no access to water or bathroom facilities in one kindergarten room and early childhood special education classrooms; the second-grade classroom is on the second floor; more room is needed for a time-out area for disruptive students and meeting space.
The rooms in the basement are crowded and not well ventilated.
Some roof repairs are needed and the building exterior should be cleaned.
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