Frequently Asked Questions
What is Blueprint 181?
Blueprint 181 is an effort to engage area residents in the development and enhancement of a comprehensive long-range facilities plan that addresses the education, health and safety needs of Brainerd Public Schools. This site is the best place to find more information.
Why do school districts create long-range facilities plans?
School districts regularly spend money on short-term repairs or upgrades to their buildings. However, the age of buildings and their equipment, growth in enrollment, changing educational needs and new regulations require school districts to evaluate long-term investment plans to keep their school buildings safe, healthy and educationally strong. This planning is no different than a homeowner who is trying to decide whether to remodel an older house or buy a new home.
What role do local residents play in this facilities planning project?
Local residents play an essential role in Blueprint 181. Community input and collaboration is absolutely necessary to make sure the district develops the best, most efficient plan that takes into account school needs while being fiscally responsible.
Who is working on the project with the district?
The first step was working with the Cuningham Group to develop a comprehensive analysis of long-range facilities needs. This was completed in November 2016.
The second step is working toward implementation. In February 2017, after a public bid process, the school board approved a resolution to execute a contract with Foster, Jacobs, and Johnson Inc. (FJJ), Widseth, Smith, Nolting and Kraus-Anderson Construction to develop and implement a plan that most appropriately meets the needs identified by community members and staff.
What is happening with enrollment in Brainerd Schools?
According to a 2015 report from the former state demographer, enrollment is increasing. Currently, all our elementary schools are above student capacity compared to the amount of space they have. Enrollment at the Middle School and High School is projected to approach or exceed capacity for those buildings over the next 10 years.
What are the most pressing needs in our schools?
Every school’s needs are unique, but the most common issues are: lack of classroom space, insufficient building security, needed maintenance to building exteriors (roofing, masonry, windows), limited access for people with disabilities, lack of early education and technical education space and other building infrastructure improvements.
Is there a report with information about the assessment by the Cuningham Group?
Yes, that report is available here or by calling the district at 218-454-6900.
Why are consultants needed for this project?
The school district will typically engage with consultants when we are completing a project or task that lies outside of resources we have available internally and/or outside of the things we do in the normal course of our business. While we have a very knowledgeable and experienced administrative staff, the completion of an inclusive and comprehensive facilities planning process for $300 million worth of property requires industry experts. To date, the school district has committed to a cost of approximately $287,000 to comprehensively assess the condition of our 12 buildings and develop a plan for meeting the needs of our students and our community, this cost represents a very appropriate and manageable amount. For comparison, while the scope of the entire project has yet to be approved, consultant services for facilities planning normally accounts for between 0.5% - 1.0% of a project's cost.
Will some schools need to be replaced?
The comprehensive long-range facilities analysis developed by the Cuningham Group recommends the replacement of two elementary school buildings and improvements to other buildings. Community members are being asked to provide their insights to ensure the plan will best meets the needs of students, parents, staff and the community. After that step is completed, the school board will determine whether replacement is necessary.
Doesn’t the district regularly spend money on maintenance of our buildings?
Yes, the district has a regular maintenance budget which is intended to address regular repairs, but not larger renovation or structural improvements. In most school districts, major improvement projects require voter approval. The district does a good job of keeping up the schools, especially given some of the buildings’ advanced age and decades of heavy use. For comparison, Brainerd Public Schools have the oldest average age of school buildings of similar-sized school districts in western, central and northern Minnesota.
How far along is the facilities planning?
District staff, students and community members have been invited to identify and prioritize our most pressing school facility needs and provide guidance for possible solutions to those needs. Once this step is concluded, the School Board will consider all input and evaluate financial options. Information on these steps is available at Blueprint181.org.
I have heard that this plan could cost $200 million or more -- isn’t that a lot of money for our school district?
The Cuningham Group’s report identified all potential costs of maintenance, technology, educational needs, health and safety, based on a 10-15 year timeline. The School Board will prioritize those needs (as well as other recommendations from community members) and examine financial options, prior to approving a plan.
How is the school board going to prioritize projects?
The school board adopted eight objectives for facility planning, seeking schools that promote Opportunity, Innovation and Success:
- Safe and secure facilities
- Mechanical and educational adequacy updates
- Space that fosters best practice instruction & 21st Century opportunities
- Spaces that promote robust opportunities in academics, arts, activities & athletics
- Increased community collaboration, ownership and workforce development
- Visionary technology integration
- Transparency, engagement and community trust-building
- Highest quality educational opportunities for our taxpayers’ generous investment
When do we get an opportunity to provide input?
Teachers and other school staff have participated in a total of 44 internal listening sessions to capture their unique viewpoints on school needs and how our schools can be even stronger. A total of 320 community members attended the nine listening sessions held at local school buildings in May 2017. The school district will also use surveys and other feedback tools to ensure that every resident has an opportunity for input.
Can long-range facilities plans help save money for classroom education?
This is an item that the school board is considering, as newer or remodeled buildings tend to be more efficient than older buildings. While the savings will not approach the cost of the investments in facilities, they can help reduce pressures on the district’s operating budget.
How do we pay for the improvements to the facilities?
As the school district develops the plan, district leaders will also propose one or more funding options. Some financing will come from state funding for maintenance and existing local levies. However, if we intend to address the needs at each of the schools, it is likely that a bond referendum will be proposed to voters.
How much will this end up costing taxpayers?
Prior to adopting a plan, the School Board will identify and publicize the budget for the building improvements and the expected cost to taxpayers, assuming voters approve a referendum. By law, the referendum ballot question will include the cost of the project.
What if voters decide they won’t support the plan?
If the School Board puts a plan before voters and voters reject the plan, the school district will still need to address some of the most pressing needs in our schools, including building security and other health and safety issues. As much as possible, the Board will use existing funding sources for building projects. If those funding sources are not adequate, the school district would need to pull some money out of classroom programming or increase class sizes, or make a second attempt at passing a referendum. However, the Board is hopeful that a plan will be developed that meets the expectations of local residents.
How do I get involved in the process?
Community involvement is essential in developing the right plan for our schools. Please contact us here for more information.
Where can I find out more about what school needs are and what the process is for developing the best plan?
Visit the school page here.
What if I still have questions?
Please contact us here.