Storm causes the district's rural students to be driven back to town
WILLMAR -- About 250 Willmar students were brought back to the city early Monday afternoon due to near whiteout conditions in rural areas.
Willmar's schools had closed at noon. Bus routes ran as usual in Willmar, but students who live outside the city were kept in town.
The Kandiyohi County Sheriff's De-partment ad-vised no travel in the country. Later in the afternoon, the Minnesota De-partment of Transportation barricaded many highways in southern and west central parts of the state.
Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said Monday afternoon that the weather situation worsened quickly.
"There's a little bit more wind and snow than we thought there was going to be," he said. "Twenty years I've been doing this, I've never had one like this."
Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary students were returned to their school buildings. Students in grades 6-12 are at the Middle School.
Principals at those schools said the situation was handled well by students and staff. Most of the rural students were picked up by parents or other authorized adults by 2 p.m.
The Willmar and Palmer bus companies had offered to drive a route through the city delivering students to the snow homes designated by their parents.
A few students from Kennedy Elementary needed rides, said Scott Hisken, principal at Kennedy. The other principals, Patti Dols and Roosevelt and Mark Miley at the Middle School, said none of the students from their school needed rides.
In the elementary schools, students went back to their classrooms. Roosevelt had 25 to 30 students return, Dols said. About 50 were brought back to Kennedy, Hisken said.
The gym was opened at the Middle School, Miley said. Between 150 and 200 students were at the school.
Elementary teachers had forms in their rooms listing a snow home for each child, and they called parents right away, Dols said.
"It went really well," she said. The last of the students was picked up by 1:30 p.m. from Roosevelt.
"It's part of Minnesota," Hisken said, and the staff is prepared to handle all types of situations.
"The kids did great," he said. "The staff helped out in providing support. ... We stay until we have everybody accounted for."
Many of the students taken to the Middle School were able to use their cell phones to call or text their parents right away, Miley said.
The staff helped wherever needed, whether in feeding lunch to all the students before school closed or in helping with the students who were returned to school.
The other principals said their staffs also pitched in to feed all the elementary children before school closed.
"We've been through a lot," Miley said. "We don't get too rattled."