As district looks long-term, focus on school staff, buildings will be next steps

WILLMAR -- The next steps in the Willmar School District's facilities plan will include staff surveys and detailed tours of some buildings. The information gathered in November and December will lead to a full report for the Willmar School Board ...

WILLMAR -- The next steps in the Willmar School District's facilities plan will include staff surveys and detailed tours of some buildings.

The information gathered in November and December will lead to a full report for the Willmar School Board in January. Superintendent Kathy Leedom described the process for the School Board at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The board passed a resolution last month directing Leedom and the district's architect, David Leapaldt of St. Cloud, to gather more information about the district's long-term programming and its maintenance needs. The effort includes planning for a possible new elementary school.

A citizen task force recommended this fall that the board consider building a new school to replace the Lincoln, Jefferson and Washington buildings. It also recommended handling some of the major maintenance needs at the district's other buildings.

Leedom said Leapaldt has been gathering information about the programs at the Area Learning Center, Washington Learning Center and the district's lower elementary schools.


A site selection committee will be formed this fall, too.

Since only a few school staff members were on the task force, staff members have been asked to fill out a survey about the needs of their programs, Leedom said. They are being asked about furniture, equipment and their need to be near other programs.

Meetings with school staff members are scheduled for Dec. 11 and Dec. 17 to go over the information gathered in the surveys, she said.

Leapaldt plans to go on detailed tours of district buildings on Nov. 27 and Dec. 4.

The information gathering plan should be finished by Dec. 17, and a report to the board should be ready in January.

"No decisions are being made ... but we are gathering information that can supplement the recommendation our community stakeholder group made," Leedom said.

Also on Tuesday, the board reviewed plans for an electronic sign to be installed outside the Willmar Education and Arts Center. WEAC is a former school near downtown Willmar that now houses school offices as well as a performing arts center and art gallery.

The sign will be used to promote arts events in the building and to make school announcements.


The Willmar Area Arts Council has raised about two-thirds of the cost of the sign, said Laura Morris, a representative of the Arts Council.

Morris said the council has obtained estimates for an electronic sign with a brick pillar on each side. The sign, foundation, brick finishing work and electrical trenching will cost about $27,000, she said. The council has raised $14,100 and has a commitment for another $4,000 from fees collected by Willmar Community Education and Recreation for use of the building's auditorium. That leaves about $9,000 still needed.

"We would give you what we have," and let the school district finish the project, Morris said.

Board members asked Leedom and Director of Business and Finance Pam Harrington to go over the district's capital budget to find enough money to finish the project. The sign will be located at the corner of Fourth Street Southwest and Minnesota Avenue.

Chet Sommers of the Arts Council asked the School Board to consider doing some maintenance work on the building's brick exterior. Leedom said the brick has been power washed this fall. Tuck pointing and sealing will be done as capital funds are available.

In other business, the board:

- Observed a moment of silence at the beginning of the meeting in honor of Janet Flick, the former director of Adult Basic Education, who died of ovarian cancer Oct. 25. Flick had retired from her job in October.

- Heard a report from Junior High Principal Mark Miley about the Breakfast of Champions program started last year. Teacher Pamela Kohls also spoke about the program. Teachers may nominate students for special qualities, and three times a year, a different group is honored at a breakfast before school. Families are invited to the breakfast, and each teacher stands up with the student he or she nominated to explain what is special about the student.


- Approved a revision to the district's contract with Southwest/West Central Service Cooperatives for special education services. Some of the amounts changed slightly because more schools have joined the cooperative, said Dr. Mary Palmer. The district total contract is about $442,000 for psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist and administrative services.

- Appointed board members Brad Schmidt and Dion Warne to meet with Willmar and Kandiyohi County officials to discuss establishing lines of communication to discuss upcoming public projects.

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