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Officials deep into planning for Willmar elementary move

Tribune file photo

WILLMAR — Willmar Public Schools officials are working hard to develop a plan for the district's elementary schools next year.

The new Lakeland Elementary School was originally scheduled to open in August, but construction delays have pushed the opening date to January 2018.

That means the district's elementary students from pre-kindergarten to grade 5 will begin the school year in the district's two existing schools before splitting into three schools mid-year.

"We have made some progress," Superintendent Jeff Holm told the Willmar School Board at its Monday meeting.

Top administrators and the three elementary principals have had five-hour meetings to work on logistics, but they aren't ready to share details yet, he said.

Voters approved a $52.35 million bond in May 2015 to pay for the new school and other addition and remodeling projects throughout the district. The goal of building a new school was to relieve overcrowding in Roosevelt and Kennedy elementary schools.

The plan is to place future Lakeland students with the same teachers they will have all year, even though their classrooms will be distributed throughout Roosevelt and Kennedy.

The primary goal of their planning is to cause as little disruption to students and their families as possible, Holm said. The second goal is to ease the transition for the staff members who will be making the mid-year shift.

The planning group has developed a rough plan of how to fit the Lakeland classrooms into the other two buildings, but it needs more work before details are made public, Holm said.

The plan can be complicated by many issues, like transportation and the needs of special education and other departments.

"Will people know by the end of this year where they will be next year?" asked board member Justin Bos.

"That's the goal," Holm said, which is why the group will be meeting again later this week.

Holm said all of the students will be attending the two existing elementary schools in the fall.

"All those kids fit with us now," he said, so there should be no need for off-site classrooms in the fall.

In other business, Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington reported that the district's enrollment at the beginning of the month was 4,186 students, 70 fewer than a month ago. A similar drop is seen each spring, after the conclusion of the night school program at the Area Learning Center, she said.

The board approved a long list of personnel changes. Included in the list of retirements was Norma Mattson, a payroll specialist with the district, who started working for the district 45 years ago, on July 5, 1972, according to Vice Chairman Mike Reynolds.

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
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