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Willmar Public Schools Foundation OKs grants for literacy programs at Kennedy and junior high

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Public Schools Foundation has agreed to help fund two literacy programs in Willmar schools.

The board met Wednesday and approved a $1,000 grant for the Accelerated Reader program at Kennedy Elementary and $3,000 for a family literacy program at Willmar Junior High.

The board also voted to pay various school fees for a dozen students whose families can't afford to pay them. The total of the fees is about $825.

The fees for participating in extracurricular activities or purchasing equipment are usually approved by coaches or administrators before they're presented to the board. The foundation board generally approves them without question. Providing such opportunities for needy children is one of the primary missions of the foundation.

Board members did question a request to pay a $60 parking fee for a Senior High student, because they'd never had such a request before and didn't want to set a precedent. They authorized the school administration to pay the fee if the need is demonstrated.

The board approved the grant for the Accelerated Reader program to provide prizes for students who reach their reading goals and materials for the annual banquet.

The family literacy program at the Junior High will start a book club for students and their parents or guardians. The participants will all read and discuss the same book, "Touching Spirit Bear" by Ben Mikaelsen. In March, they will be invited to share a meal with the author, who will be available to sign books and answer questions.

The board approved paying $20 each for seven students in the Usher's Club to attend the Chanhassen Dinner Theater. The students have earned the rest of the money for the trip by working at concession stands.

The foundation will pay for the cost of two coach buses to send 90 Senior High communications students to the Park Square Theater in St. Paul to see "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Several requests were partially funded or denied:

- The board denied a $702 request for YMCA membership for 16 students in the Focus House program. The program teaches independent living skills for special education students who have graduated from high school. Board members suggested the program consider using school district facilities or look into the YMCA's scholarship fund.

- A request to pay $10 per child for 175 Kennedy third graders to attend a field trip at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center was partially funded. Board members authorized the school administration to pay the fee for students who were unable to pay it.

- Action was delayed on requests for interactive white boards, called SMART Boards, for the Area Learning Center, Jefferson Elementary and Lincoln Elementary.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard suggested that the requests should be considered in the spring, because installing the technology during the school year would be difficult.

The board has funded the boards for several school buildings in the past, but the district is now using its technology budget to purchase the equipment on its own. Board members asked for a listing of which schools have received board from the foundation already, so they could be fair to all the school sites.

Proceeds from the foundation's annual gala last spring paid for two boards to be installed at the Junior High. The gala, which raised $12,195, also paid for school-owned basses and cellos for the orchestra program.