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New elementary school boundaries set for Willmar; new school opens for fall 2017

This map shows how the Willmar School District will be split students among the three elementary schools. Those who live in the green area will attend Roosevelt, those in the pink area will attend Kennedy and those in the blue area will attend the new school.

WILLMAR — Attendance boundaries are set for fall 2017, when Willmar Public Schools will open its third elementary school.

The School Board adopted the new boundaries at its Monday meeting. The boundaries were drawn with attention to making the three schools similar in demographics, family income levels and academic levels.

Construction is under way at the new elementary school. When it opens, it will relieve crowding at Kennedy and Roosevelt elementary schools. The new school is on track to open for the 2017-18 school year.

In general, Roosevelt students live in areas north and west of the school, including the town of Pennock. Kennedy students live in areas north and east of their school, including the Eagle Lake area. Students at the new school live east and south of the school, including in the communities of Kandiyohi and Blomkest.

The new boundaries will allow the district to move ahead with other planning related to the new school, said Superintendent Jeff Holm.

The attendance boundaries were developed with the assistance of a design team of school district and transportation company representatives and a task force of parents and people from the community. They were assisted by Teamworks International of Centerville.

The teams faced some challenges, Holm said at Monday's meeting. "We are a fairly large district geographically, we have a lot of rural area, but our population is concentrated right around the city," he said.

More than 90 percent of the district's students live in the city of Willmar, and the three schools are not far apart in the southwestern and southeastern parts of the city.

The current enrollment is 850 students at Kennedy and 982 students at Roosevelt. When the new school opens, enrollment is expected to range from 567 to 646 in the three schools. The largest enrollment is planned for Kennedy, which is the largest of the buildings.

The demographics of the three buildings are quite similar. The percentage of white students will make up 39 percent to 46 percent of enrollment; black students, 16 percent to 20 percent; Asian students, 1 percent to 3 percent; Hispanic students, 31 percent to 43 percent; Native American students, 1 percent to 2 percent.

Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunches range from 63 percent to 70 percent. Each school will have 8 percent to 9 percent of students in special education.

Between 60 percent to 70 percent of the students in the schools are meeting or exceeding state standards in math. In reading, the percentage meeting or exceeding standards ranges from 47 percent to 54 percent. The rest of the students in those categories either partially meet or do not meet standards.

In a second proposal, the town of Kandiyohi was included in the Kennedy attendance area, but the demographics would be more out of balance.

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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