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Levy support signs distributed, showing up on lawns in Willmar, Minn.

Ann Rislov, left, hands a "We Support Our Schools" lawn sign to Mary Wilkowske of Willmar. Volunteers with Education Matters, a group encouraging people to vote yes on the Willmar Schools' operating levy renewal on Nov. 8, distributed the lawn signs Thursday afternoon in Willmar. (Tribune photo by Ron Adams)

WILLMAR -- Red signs supporting the Willmar School District's operating levy renewal should be popping up all over Willmar today.

Volunteers with Education Matters handed out lawn signs Thursday afternoon. In the first hour of their two-hour distribution, they handed out more than half of their 400 signs. The signs are red and white, with a cardinal in one corner and the words, "We Support Our Schools."

Education Matters is encouraging people to vote yes on the operating levy renewal on Nov. 8. Voters will decide whether to continue a $498.49 operating levy that is about to expire. Property taxes will not change if the levy is renewed.

Anyone who wanted a sign could drive into a vacant parking lot at 19th Avenue and First Street South. If they didn't have time to get out of their vehicles, the signs were handed in through the windows.

The volunteers were a mixture of people from the community and school district employees. Some had their children along. Many of them were dressed in red Willmar Cardinals gear.

Darrin Anderson, a social studies teacher in the Prairie Lakes Youth Programs, and others said they were encouraged by the steady flow of people picking up signs.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm," said Anderson. "This is about the future of the kids and their education."

Jim Rudnick of Willmar stopped to pick up two signs, one for his own house and one for a friend. "I've got kids in school, and I'm supporting it 100 percent," he said. "I think everybody should be supporting it."

Bob Dols of Willmar also stopped for a sign. "Our kids went to Willmar Public Schools, and they got a great education and went on to great careers," he said. "And it wasn't just our family."

Dols, who is married to a retired elementary principal, said it's important to keep the schools healthy, because "we need an educated workforce."

School Board member Nathan Streed stopped to pick up signs and asked organizers when he'd be able to get larger signs to put in front of his business. As he left, he said, "Thank you for doing this," and gave the group a thumbs up.

Teachers picked up signs, too.

John Wilson, a woodworking and metals teacher at Willmar Senior High, picked up 10 signs, so he could pass them out to his neighbors.

Lori Holmgren, a first-grade teacher at Kennedy Elementary, said, "I just think it's important to have strong schools." She said she was concerned that class sizes could increase if the levy is not renewed.

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

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