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Enrollment to fluctuate throughout year, superintendent says

Pam Roehl, a kindergarten teacher at Kennedy Elementary School in Willmar, prepares her classroom Thursday for the first day of the new school year. Willmar students return to school today. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

The Willmar School District expects to have 86 fewer students when school opens today than it had at the beginning of the last school year. However, Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said he expects that number to continue to fluctuate as the school year gets under way.

As of Friday, the student count was 4,042 students across all the district's programs, he said.

Like most rural Minnesota districts, the district has seen enrollment decline from 4,790 students in the 1996-97 school year to the current levels.

The most precipitous drops were in 1999-2000 and in 2001-02. In recent years, enrollment levels have been steadier.

The district has added teachers in some grades this year to try to control elementary class sizes. Kindergarten and second-grade sections have been added at Roosevelt Elementary. Second-grade and fifth-grade sections have been added at Kennedy Elementary.

Other staff positions may be added after the school year starts, thanks to about $900,000 in one-time federal funding available to save jobs in education. All buildings in the district will benefit from the money, he said, and more information will be available at the Sept. 13 School Board meeting. Enrollment at the two K-5 elementary schools is expected to be 908 students at Kennedy and 912 at Roosevelt. The 6-8 Middle School will have 885 students, and the 9-12 Senior High School will have 1,219 students.

Because Kennedy is the larger building, Kjergaard said, it may be necessary to consider some adjustments to the elementary attendance areas in the spring.