Weather Forecast


Willmar, Minn., schools demographic info indicates aging population

WILLMAR -- Census data indicates that the Willmar School District has a growing population that is well-educated and growing older.

During the Willmar School Board's workshop meeting Monday, Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard went over a demographic report built on census data and other government databases.

The board also discussed elementary shuttle bus service, a high school principal search and improved job descriptions in the district. No formal action was taken at the meeting.

Kjergaard said he received the report and felt it would be good information to share with the board and the public.

It's clear in the information that the community is getting older, Kjergaard said.

Projected population growth will be relatively stable, but there will likely be fewer children in the district in coming years, he said.

The district lost hundreds of students in the past decade, he said, but has stabilized at about 4,000 students each year. He said he hopes enrollment can remain stable in the near future.

"There are no districts around here that I'm aware of that are projecting higher enrollment," he said.

The district's population in 2011 was estimated at 25,941. The population is projected to grow to nearly 29,000 by 2021.

The Latino population in the school district was 4,645 in 2011, and the black population was listed at 968 people. Both are expected to increase in the next five years.

The median age increased from 29.5 in 1980 to 39.7 in 2011. The median age is projected to be about the same in 2016. Over that same time frame, average household income has increased from $18,693 in 1980 to $62,991 in 2011. By 2016, it's expected to surpass $70,000.

Most homes in the district were owner-occupied. Less than half as many homes were renter-occupied. About 700 homes were listed as vacant in 2011.

Last year the number of households without children was nearly double the number of households with children. About a third of the households with children were headed by a lone parent.

More than half the people in the school district have high school diplomas or have attended some college. Another quarter of the district's population has completed associate or bachelor's degrees.

"It's a pretty well-educated group of people who live here," Kjergaard said.

In other discussion Monday, Kjergaard said bus companies have provided an after-school shuttle bus between the two elementary schools since the district's realignment nearly three years ago. They have provided the service for free, but he said that likely will not continue.

Students ride the shuttle to go to daycare in the other school's attendance area or to attend activities.

Kjergaard said he planned to allow the bus companies to bill parents for the service. The companies already charge for other trips outside the transportation provided by the district.

Also Monday, Kjergaard said he has received more than 30 applications for the high school principal position. Current Principal Rob Anderson plans to retire after this school year.

Kjergaard said he plans to bring in four or five applicants for interviews that will include parents, teachers, administrators and a board representative.

The board also heard a report on a two-year internal effort to review and rewrite job descriptions in the district.

Human Resources Director Liz Fischer said the new job descriptions give the district a system to improve compliance with the state's pay equity system.

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