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Willmar starts school year with strong enrollment

WILLMAR — Willmar Public Schools opened the 2017-18 school year with 4,235 students enrolled, an increase of 38 students over last year's opening day.

Pam Harrington, the district's business and finance director, provided an enrollment report to the Willmar School Board at its Monday meeting.

"We have pretty good numbers to start the year out," Harrington said. Board member Linda Mathiasen said the total is the highest starting enrollment in four years.

Enrollment is important to school districts because the state uses enrollment in calculating how much funding school districts receive. State aid makes up the majority of revenue for public schools in the state.

Harrington said the district's elementary students are distributed in three groups now, with 746 Kennedy Elementary students, 506 at Roosevelt Elementary and 554 set to move to Lakeland Elementary when it opens in January.

Lakeland students attend school now at Roosevelt and Kennedy while construction is finished on the new school.

The Middle School has three more students than a year ago, and the Senior High School has added 50 students to its enrollment.

The Area Learning Center, an alternative secondary school, saw its enrollment drop by one student. The Prairie Lakes, Lake Park and Lakeview school programs for special populations of students increased 10 students over a year ago.

Enrollment usually fluctuates during a school year, with families moving into or out of the school district. Willmar's enrollment has been fairly steady in recent years, with no major fluctuations in student numbers.

The board approved a revision of its pay scale for substitutes. Human Resources Director Liz Fischer said she had compared Willmar's plan with 18 to 20 other rural school districts before developing her proposal.

With the new plan, substitute teachers will be paid $115 per day or $15.33 per hour, retired Willmar teachers will be paid an additional $10 per day.

Non-certified substitutes will be paid $12 an hour, with $2 more per hour for retired Willmar Public Schools employees. Substitute nurses will be paid $15 an hour, with Willmar Public Schools retirees earning $2 more.

Three-year contract extensions were approved with both bus companies that provide transportation for the school district.

Willmar Bus Co. and Palmer Bus Co. will receive a 2 percent increase in each of the three years, through the 2019-2020 school year.

The board approved a snowplowing contract for the school year with Hansen Concrete Inc., the only company to submit a quote for the service. Harrington said the district contacted 12 companies. The school district will pay $65 an hour for plowing and $75 an hour for snow removal.

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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