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Community Education getting ready for its move to Jefferson

WILLMAR -- More space, a bigger outdoor playground and a city park across the street are some of the advantages Willmar Community Education and Recreation will find when they move to the Jefferson Learning Center.

But they'll also give up some things when they move to a building with smaller classrooms and fewer restrooms.

The move is part of a reorganization plan in the Willmar School District. Two buildings, including Washington, are being closed.

The district will have two elementary schools instead of four when school starts in September.

Community Education is moving into Jefferson, one of the former elementary schools.

Most of the furniture and toys for the early childhood programs has been moved from Washington Learning Center to Jefferson since early June.

The major move for the remaining programs and the department's offices will begin Aug. 6, when they will close for two days of moving and two days of unpacking before they open at the new location.

Community Education and Recreation offices will be located in the middle of the south side of the building. The building has a new address to match its new entrance off the parking lot -- 1234 Kandiyohi Avenue. When Jefferson was an elementary school, the entrance was on Monongalia Avenue.

This week, the office staff was looking at carpet and paint colors while summer student workers taped and painted next door. Director Steve Brisendine was going over where phones and other wiring should be located.

"It's a larger facility, from 30,000 to 45,000 square feet," he said. "We're getting a lot more school."

A drawback was the lack of office space for the department, so a couple classrooms have been converted.

The building doesn't have the visibility of Washington, but "I don't think that's an issue," Brisendine said. People should be able to find the building, and Kandiyohi Area Transit is already planning new routes to bring students to the door.

The room assignments have been made for various programs, but Brisendine said there may be some changes once the building is operating.

The hallway along the south side of the school will house Adult Basic Education classes and a computer lab. A family literacy classroom, a child care room and two Head Start rooms will also be in that hallway.

ABE will have more rooms available. Now, different classes sometimes meet in the same room. At Jefferson "they won't be competing with each other," said Jim Nicholson, co-director of the program. "The rooms themselves are smaller, but there's more of them."

The north part of the gym at Jefferson has already been converted into an indoor playground with bright-colored plastic equipment and thick padding on the floor. The gym space is about double what it was at Washington.

Early Childhood Family Education and other early childhood programs will use classrooms in the hall that runs the length of the eastern side of the building.

Occupational and physical therapy services will use the room that was once the stage at the north end of the gym.

A basement formerly used as a library will now be a large conference room with a small library at one end. It will be used for staff meetings and for testing.

The skate park currently located behind Washington will be moved to another location in Willmar, Brisendine said. Some of the equipment will be repaired, and it should be ready to reopen after the spring thaw next year.

"It's without a doubt the most used park in town," he said.

Linda Vanderwerf

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