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Willmar may build addition to Roosevelt

WILLMAR -- The problem of how to reorganize the elementary schools in Willmar might be solved by adding on a half dozen rooms to one of the schools.

The Willmar School Board discussed the idea at a workshop meeting Monday. Board members said they felt a small addition to Roosevelt Elementary School could position the district well for the future.

"I see this as a long-term solution," said Board Chairman Brad Schmidt. The tradeoff is that it will cost more money in the immediate future, he said.

The board will decide March 16 whether to build the addition and how to cut $2.5 million from its 2009-2010 budget, a response to a shrinking enrollment and state aid that is inadequate to cover inflation.

Administrators had proposed a plan a month ago that would have closed two smaller buildings and left the district with two elementary schools for grades 1-5 and a separate kindergarten center. Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said Roosevelt and Kennedy elementary schools were five or six rooms short of being able to hold all the students in grades K-5.

After discussing the plan, board members two weeks ago said they would prefer to be able to have two K-5 elementary schools.

Monday, Kjergaard and district administrators presented a plan that would do that by adding on to Roosevelt at an estimated cost of about $1 million.

Under the plan, Washington Learning Center would be closed, and the community education, early childhood and adult education programs there would be moved to Jefferson Elementary.

All K-5 students in the district would attend school at either Kennedy or Roosevelt this fall, except for a handful of kindergarten classes. They would attend school at Lincoln Elementary while the new classrooms would be built. Once the kindergarteners moved to Roosevelt, Lincoln would be closed.

The cost of the new classrooms would be covered with the proceeds from the sale of closed buildings and district maintenance funds. General fund reserves would be used if needed.

Sixth-graders would be moved to the junior high, creating a middle school. The Senior High and the Area Learning Center would not change their configuration.

The board asked architect David Leapaldt to begin working on plans, in preparation for a final decision on March 16.

Leapaldt said he has worked on similar additions in other school districts, and he estimated the work would take about seven months.