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Cassandra Duran, a student in Kathy Damhof's class, uses a computer Tuesday at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar. The Willmar School Board on Monday discussed a budget reduction proposal that could have a great impact on kindergarten classes. If the proposal is adopted, the district would return to half-time kindergarten. The estimated savings would be $450,000, mostly because half as many kindergarten teachers would be needed. Tribune photo by Gary Miller
Cassandra Duran, a student in Kathy Damhof's class, uses a computer Tuesday at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar. The Willmar School Board on Monday discussed a budget reduction proposal that could have a great impact on kindergarten classes. If the proposal is adopted, the district would return to half-time kindergarten. The estimated savings would be $450,000, mostly because half as many kindergarten teachers would be needed. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

List of Willmar budget cuts could reach all corners of district

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- The details of the Willmar School District's budget reduction proposal show a long list of programs and fees that could affect every corner of the district in the next school year.

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The largest change the School Board discussed Monday is a return to half-time kindergarten. The estimated saving is $450,000, mostly because the district will need only half as many kindergarten teachers if it's adopted. None of the cuts is certain at this point, Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard told the board, but the district will need to cut at least $2 million from its $40 million general fund budget before the 2010-11 school year.

The list of cuts proposed Monday totaled $2.2 million.

The School Board asked for an expanded list of potential cuts to be presented at the next board meeting on Monday. Decisions on the proposed cuts could be made in early March.

The final amount to be cut is also yet to be determined. It could be affected by actions the Legislature takes to deal with state budget deficits.

Other cuts proposed include eliminating the equivalent of at least 13 full-time teaching positions throughout the district, along with nine paraprofessionals, a secretary and a number of assistant coaches. Several clerical employees could have their contracts shortened by several days each year.

Board members said they were concerned about increasing class sizes at all levels with the proposed teacher cuts.

The cuts proposed total $810,000 in grades K-5; $238,000 in grades 6-8; and $300,000 in grades 9-12. Other cuts include $288,000 district-wide; $151,000 in alternative programs; $321,000 in special education; and $91,000 in curriculum and instruction.

About the larger elementary cuts, Kjergaard said Tuesday that there was no intent to target those grade levels.

"That's just the way it works out," he said. The K-5 total is going to appear larger, because "it's almost 50 percent of our district," he said, and the kindergarten change also affects it.

Elementary principals Patti Dols and Scott Hisken said they were reluctant to recommend the kindergarten change.

"It's hard to put a value on the student impact of all-day kindergarten," Hisken said. "It's a significant concern."

In other changes, revenue could be raised by increasing ticket sales for musicals and for athletic events.

At the Senior High, athletic fees could be increased to $300 for a first sport, $200 for a second sport and $100 for a third sport, with a family limit of $700 per year.

Gifted and Talented funds could be used to provide travel and supplies for several Senior High activities.

Ushers Club, Marching Band, Business Professionals of America, Key Club could be eliminated at the Senior High, unless outside funding could be found for them.

At the Middle School, boys and girls golf, soccer, tennis and swimming could be eliminated and possibly offered through Willmar Community Education and Recreation.

The board meeting was recorded and may be seen at 11:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. today on local cable WPS19.

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West Central Tribune (320) 235-6769 customer support

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

(320) 214-4340
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