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Willmar School Board may consider new plan

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board will look at a revised school closing plan when it discusses potential budget cuts Monday afternoon.

The board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the first floor boardroom of the Willmar Education and Arts Center, 611 Fifth St. S.W. The board plans to take no official action during the workshop meeting, which is open to the public.

The board has been discussing a list of possible budget cuts, looking toward a decision to cut at least $2.5 million from the district's 2009-2010 budget. A decision on the cuts is expected at the board's March 16 meeting.

The board has considered a proposal to close two smaller schools and realign grades in the buildings serving K-8 students.

At Monday's meeting, the district's architect, David Leapaldt, will talk about a new alternative for closing and reorganizing schools. Leapaldt worked with a citizen task force studying the district's facilities.

The alternative includes closing Washington Learning Center and moving its programs to Jefferson Elementary School.

Proceeds from the sale of Washington, general fund dollars and capital improvement funds would be used to add six classrooms to Roosevelt Elementary School. Affiliated Community Medical Centers is located next to Washington and in the past has expressed interest in purchasing the building and land.

Roosevelt and Kennedy schools would each become K-5 schools. Several sections of kindergarten would attend school at Lincoln Elementary until the new rooms at Roosevelt were finished. After those classes moved to Roosevelt, Lincoln would be closed.

The earlier proposed alternative would have made Jefferson a kindergarten center and moved grades 1-5 to Kennedy and Roosevelt. Washington programs would have moved to Kennedy.

In both plans, grade 6 moves to Willmar Junior High, which will become a middle school.

The board is also considering a number of other changes, including increasing class sizes throughout the district and terminating the positions of some teachers and other staff members.

The board is considering a list of cuts that totals about $2.9 million. Board members will choose from that list in arriving at a final budget reduction decision.

Some of the budget cuts would be necessary to adjust to declining enrollment in the district, but others are needed because state aid to schools has not kept up with inflation for a decade or more. Many school officials around the state expect to receive no increase in per-student state aid for the next two years.