A new era in the Brainerd School District was ushered in this year as students and staff bid farewell to their Franklin Junior High School in May and fifth- through eighth-graders rang in the school year in September at Forestview Middle School.
About 1,400 students at Washington Middle School and Mississippi Horizons moved into Forestview Middle School in January while Franklin students finished the school year at their 73-year-old school.
Traffic congestion became a problem the first day of school at Forestview Jan. 4 as long lines of vehicles led to the pickup and drop-off area. Front parking lots at the school were backed up along both directions of Crow Wing County Road 48.
School administrators were concerned about traffic congestion again on the first day of school this fall when the 2,100 students in grades 5-8 started school at Forestview. They asked parents to put their children on a school bus, rather than drive them to the Baxter school. With 2,100 students attending the district's largest campus, it was equivalent to every resident of Nisswa or Pequot Lakes being transported or driven to the same location at the same time each day.
But much to the surprise of school officials, there were few traffic delays Sept. 6, the first day of school. The longest wait time for parents during peak traffic times was about two minutes. Traffic also ran smoothly at the Brainerd High School South Campus, the former Mississippi Horizons building, which houses the district's ninth-graders and a few high school classes.
In 2002, Brainerd School District voters approved a $59.9 building bond referendum to build Forestview Middle School and remodel Brainerd High School and the former Mississippi Horizons building.
Washington Middle School became Washington Educational Services Building, which houses school district offices, including Brainerd Community Education.
Meanwhile, plans to transform the former Franklin Junior High School building into the $6.5 million Franklin Arts Center hit a snag in November when developers learned the project timeline may be delayed possibly six to eight months.
The $2 million in funding for the project was not approved. The funding was in low-income housing tax credits applied for through the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency. However, it is not unusual for projects not to be awarded the tax credits on the first application and Artspace developers told the school district this was a possibility. Artspace, a Minneapolis-based nonprofit real estate development company that is in the process of buying Franklin from the school district, believes the project will be successful on the second round of applications. Artspace representatives also are seeking other funding sources.
The plans were for the Brainerd School District to complete the sale of the building in March but now the purchase date may be delayed about six to eight months, said Paul Bloom, former Brainerd Community Education director who is managing Franklin until its sale to Artspace.
Until the building is sold, the district is paying the maintenance and heating costs of Franklin. To help pay for those operational costs, the district has started leasing studio space to area artists, businesses and art-related organizations in the art center.
JODIE TWEED can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5858.
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