WILLMAR — If all moves along smoothly, an addition to Willmar Middle School could open as soon as Sept. 1, 2021.
The planned addition would have a larger gym and a small alternative learning center for the school district and a wing for special needs students served by the Southwest West Central Service Cooperative.
Willmar School Board approved the framework of a lease agreement with the cooperative this week. The Board approved the document unanimously.
Superintendent Jeff Holm said the document features items that would be included in a formal lease.
“These are details that inevitably need to be part of a lease, ... at a minimum,” Holm said. Lawyers for both sides have looked at the framework of the agreement “to keep from either side getting unpleasant surprises.”
Preston Euerle, president of R.A. Morton Construction Managers of St. Cloud, said the project “looks like it’s on a nice track to start construction this summer” and be "finished by Sept. 1 next year.”
R.A. Morton supervised construction of Lakeland Elementary School and additions at the Middle School and Willmar Senior High in the past several years.
The plan for the addition is to build it south of the school at the east end of the building.
The project is now in plan development, Euerle said. The plan is to bid the project in May with site preparation starting in July and construction in August.
The school district has been working with the cooperative to develop an addition that would serve both their needs.
The school district would use its general fund balance to fund the addition, and the cooperative would make lease payments to pay for its portion of the building. Willmar’s undesignated general fund balance has grown gradually over the years.
“I think this is an exceptional opportunity for us to get this accomplished,” Holm said.
The Middle School has a shortage of gym space for physical education classes, and the current gym is not big enough for a regulation basketball court. The district also needs more room to develop an alternative learning center for middle school students.
The cooperative needs to develop a facility for special education students with high needs. The facility would serve students classified as Level 4, students who don’t do well in a traditional school setting. Some students from the Willmar area are currently bused up to an hour each way to the nearest Level 4 school.
In other business at the School Board meeting this week, Business and Finance Director Pam Harrington reported that enrollment rose slightly last month, from 4,317 on Jan. 10 to 4,331 on Jan. 31. However, that number is still 20 students lower than a year ago.
The board voted to accept $14,100 in donations, including $7,500 from Jennie-O Turkey Store.