I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.
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GRANITE FALLS -- Work is nearly finished on a $10 million project to improve ventilation systems at Yellow Medicine East School District buildings in Granite Falls. However, if state inspectors are not available to inspect the work that's been done since June, the district could face a delay in cleaning and moving furniture back into classrooms. Superintendent Alan Stoeckman said the district is about to wrap up its second year of work on the project. When he was interviewed on Thursday, Gov. Mark Dayton had just announced a new compromise offer to Republican legislative leaders.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District will definitely ask voters this fall to replace a $498.49-per-pupil operating levy that expires at the end of the year. What's not clear yet is if the School Board will ask voters for more money. Board members said they hope to hear from the public about the levy in the next few weeks so that they can make final decisions at their Aug. 8 meeting. The board discussed the Nov. 8 levy vote at its Monday meeting.
WILLMAR -- The majority of people responding to an online survey support the idea of renewing an operating levy for the Willmar School District. The results of the survey were released this week by the district. The survey had 448 respondents from the district, 80 percent of them parents in the district. Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard said the survey is not scientific. It was sent to everyone the district has an email address for, and it was available to anyone in the community on the district's website.
WILLMAR -- The uncertainty of school funding during the state government shutdown is leading the Willmar School Board to consider borrowing $3.5 million this fall to maintain a positive cash flow during the school year. Board members discussed the need to borrow at their meeting Monday afternoon. They adopted a resolution authorizing the district to participate in aid anticipation borrowing. The situation for schools has changed several times in recent weeks, said Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington.
WILLMAR -- The Willmar School Board will discuss borrowing $3.5 million to maintain a positive cash flow while state government is shut down. The board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Monday in the board room on the first floor of the Willmar Education and Arts Center. The possibility of a substantial school funding shift has been included in several budget proposals since late June. Legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton have been meeting to try to reach a settlement on a new two-year budget for the state.
WILLMAR -- The Kandiyohi County Board has rejected all bids for work to update the 11 elevators in county buildings. Improvements will still be made to bring the elevators up to state code, but the work will be contracted out in smaller portions. County Administrator Larry Kleindl said he had hoped to see favorable bid amounts by bundling all the projects into one bid. "That doesn't appear to have happened." At Tuesday's board meeting, Kleindl recommended rejecting all the bids received last month.
WILLMAR -- Troubled teens and people with mental illness could benefit from two health initiatives being studied by Kandiyohi County. The Kandiyohi County Board heard reports on the two new programs at the Tuesday County Family Services meeting. Supervisor Carmen Clementson spoke to the board about TeenScreen, a program to identify youth at risk of developing mental health disorders, and the 10x10 Wellness Campaign, an effort to improve the overall health of adults with serious mental illness. TeenScreen is a project of the National Center for Mental Health Checkups at Columbia University.
WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County plans to increase the disposal fee at the county landfill for the first time in 15 years. The disposal fee will increase from $36 per ton to $39 per ton, an increase of about 8 percent. The County Board voted Tuesday to increase the fee, which was set in 1996. The increase will be included in the renewal of the county's solid waste agreement with West Central Sanitation. The agreement was also approved Tuesday. The county has agreements with Stevens County and Miller Sanitation, too.
WILLMAR -- The impacts of the state government shutdown became apparent across the area on Friday. Most government offices shut down at midnight Thursday, when state leaders failed to reach an agreement on a new budget for the fiscal year that began Friday. Many state offices in Willmar were locked and dark Friday morning. Signs on their doors explained why they were closed and referred people to a state website. Ridgewater College was still operating.
Area school officials were pleased Wednesday when a judge ordered the state to continue funding public schools, even in the event of a state government shutdown. Before the ruling, schools had thought they may need to borrow money to meet their obligations this summer. With the payments assured for now, they are waiting to see how a final budget agreement might affect education funding for the next two years. After ending the legislative session without a workable budget agreement, DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders continued negotiating into the evening Thursday.