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Willmar School Board nears decision on elementary boundaries

WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District has tentative boundaries in place for attendance areas for Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools next year.

The boundaries discussed at a School Board workshop meeting Monday will not be final until the board votes on them at its May 11 meeting.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard showed the board a proposed map that essentially splits the district into northwest and southeast sections. Students living southeast of the line will attend Roosevelt Elementary, and students living northwest of the line will attend Kennedy Elementary.

The proposed line between the two attendance areas starts on County Road 9 at the east side of Eagle Lake. It cuts along County Road 90 to Highway 71 and runs south to Willmar. The line then runs west along Willmar Avenue and follows Highway 40 to the edge of the district.

An area south of Willmar Avenue and north of Ramblewood Park between Eighth and 15th streets would be part of the Kennedy attendance area.

Kjergaard said he tried to balance each school for gender, ethnicity, English Language Learners, economic status and special needs students. He also tried to keep neighborhoods in the same attendance area as much as possible.

Open enrollment students from other districts will be placed to help balance the schools' demographics and class sizes, he said.

The bus companies serving the district are pleased with the district's reorganization for next year, Kjergaard said. Having two K-5 elementary buildings will make the routes easier and do away with the need for a transportation hub at Kennedy, he said.

It is possible that the district will have fewer bus routes next year, he said, but the new routes aren't final yet.

"This is a draft; it can still be changed," Kjergaard said. "But my hope is once we set it, we can leave it for a few years."

Board member Dion Warne pointed out that some students would move to a different school for one year during the transition to the district's new arrangement. But then the movement should decrease.

"We hear a lot of talk about neighborhood schools," said board member Mike Carlson. "This is as close as we're going to be."

Once the final attendance areas are set, Kjergaard said he will meet with local real estate agents, "so they can tell people what elementary school their child will go to. ... It will help them."