Willmar Public Schools have open jobs, lots of them; Cardinal Place fees to increase in effort to attract, retain workers

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Oct. 13—WILLMAR — Finding employees continues to be a problem for Willmar Public Schools, whether it's in full-time, part-time or substitute positions.

The agenda at Monday's Willmar School Board meeting included a dozen new hires but five resignations.

The district has nearly 20 job openings plus a need for substitutes in numerous types of jobs, said Liz Windingstad, human resources director, during her report to the board.

The agenda also included a half-dozen requests for leaves of absence. Not all the leaves of absence begin this fall, but substitutes will be needed to cover the absences.

The district needs more nurses and will interview licensed school nurses, registered nurses or licensed practical nurses, she said.

Also needed are a special education teacher, a speech-language pathologist, paraprofessionals, food service staff and bilingual staff.

Superintendent Jeff Holm addressed the staffing issues in his report, too.

"COVID certainly puts another strain on us," he said.

COVID-19 cases have been increasing across the district, and some staff members have been gone for an extended time, increasing the need for substitutes, he said.

The district reported a total of 119 positive cases among students and 33 positive cases among staff on its website Monday night. For both groups, the rate of positive cases is less than 0.5%.

The district needs to have substitutes available "at every position in our district," Holm said.

"So, if anyone knows somebody who would like a great part-time job, we encourage them to apply," he said. "If people out there are looking for positions or looking for additional work, we would take subs of all types."

For information about jobs, go to the district website at willmar.k12.mn.us and click on Careers on the right side of the page.

Click to read more about Education.

Holm said the district has received free rapid COVID-19 tests and Monday morning started offering daily testing to staff members.

Windingstad and her assistant Jena Tollefson were on duty at 5:30 a.m. to administer tests to 18 staff members, he said. Most were negative.

Staffing will be an issue for testing, too, Holm said.

"I don't think it's reasonable to assume our HR director can be here at 5:30 every morning until COVID is over, or that her assistant can be here every morning," he said.

In other business Monday, Business and Finance Director Kathryn Haase reported current enrollment of 4,229 students, up 37 students from a year ago but still down more than 120 students from before the pandemic.

Cardinal Place salaries, fees changing

Community Education Director Scott Wallner spoke with the board about employment issues in the Cardinal Place school-age care program.

The Cardinal Place wage scale makes it difficult to hire and retain employees, he said. Some Cardinal Place positions have lower pay than fast food or retail jobs.

Wallner said he plans to notify families later this month that wages and fees will increase, beginning June 6, 2022, with the summer program.

The early notice will allow families to prepare for the higher fees and to use them when signing up for flex programs this fall.

Wages will increase to $13 to $24 an hour, depending on the position.

Currently, families paying by the week have received sizable discounts, he said. Discounts will continue, but they will be smaller.

For before-school care, the daily charge will rise from $6.50 to $7, and the weekly charge will increase from $23 to $32.

For after-school care, the daily charge will rise from $8.50 to $9.50, and the weekly charge will increase from $32 to $45.

The charge for a full day will increase from $32 to $38.

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