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Willmar School District finds temp solution for attendance area woes

WILLMAR -- School and bus company officials have come up with a one-year solution for parents who live in one elementary attendance area in the Willmar School District and have child care in another.

Shuttle buses, available only for children with day care in another area, will take children between the two Willmar elementary schools before and after school. School starts on Tuesday. The arrangement will allow families more time to adjust to the district's reorganization of its elementary schools, designed to cut costs and increase efficiency.

Instead of four elementary schools, Willmar now has two

Students were assigned to either Kennedy or Roosevelt elementary schools based on their home addresses.

Bus routes were redrawn, and they do not cross from one attendance area to another.

That has created a challenge for parents who live in one area and have a day care provider in another.

"We had a number of parents who looked to us to solve the problem," Willmar Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said.

So Tuesday morning, Kjergaard met with Ken Inselmann of Willmar Bus Co. and Lindi Peterson of Palmer Bus Co. to come up with a solution.

By Tuesday afternoon, they had come up with a plan.

All students will attend the school in the attendance area where they live. If they are going to day care in the other attendance area, they will take a shuttle to the other elementary building after school. From there, they will be able to board a regular route bus or walk to their day care providers.

The school does not bus children within a one-mile radius of the school.

Children who are in child care in another attendance area before school will go to that area's elementary school and take a shuttle to their school.

The shuttles will leave at about 7:55 a.m., Inselmann said. Those arriving on school buses will be there in time for the shuttles, he said, and others should be at the schools' front doors by 7:50 a.m. to catch the shuttle.

In the afternoons, children going to child care in the other attendance area will be released from school 5 to 10 minutes early to catch a shuttle.

"This is the best solution I can come up with," Kjergaard said.

He emphasized that the shuttle would be available only for one year, to give parents more time to make arrangements for child care in their attendance area.

Parents do have options, he said. The school district has about 80 licensed day care providers, and they are evenly split between the two areas. The school district also offers before- and after-school care through its Cardinal Place program, which will be offered at both elementary schools.

Willmar Bus and Palmer Bus will be sharing the shuttle service and will share information about ridership.

For more information or to let the companies know which children will be using the service, call Willmar Bus from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 320-235-2110.

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