The first steps toward establishing a high school in Willmar were taken in 1879. The first Willmar high school was built and accepted in 1881. The first ward school was also built at that time at a cost of about $1,000. On the night of September 18, 1885, the high school building burned with all of its contents inside. The skating rink became temporary quarters for the school. In 1885, a new schoolhouse was built on the old school site and opened for classes to start in 1886. In 1910, a building that provided training in industrial arts and home economics was added to the high school. As years passed and the Willmar school system continued to grow, more graduates of Willmar came and went. In 1937, there were 135 students in the graduating class. By 1969, the graduating class numbered a record 320 students! As high school enrollment numbers continued to grow, the Board of Education proposed building a new senior high school in 1956. The proposition was defeated twice before voters finally approved building a new senior high school in 1957. The new Willmar Senior High School was built to accommodate 850 students on West Street and was occupied in 1958 with 785 students. The first principal of this school was Ernest Pederson, who was hired in August of 1957. Today, the building that was the first Wilmar High School is known as the Willmar Education and Arts Center (WEAC). It is a facility for both community arts events and is also home to the Willmar Public Schools district office. The building houses an art exhibition gallery and a 750-seat performance auditorium. Over the past 25 years, continual efforts have been made to improve the facility for arts related purposes. A rehearsal hall, green room, and a performance shell for the stage with a state of the art sound system make it a welcoming venue for performances. The gallery space, located in the lobby area, is used for exhibitions arranged by the Willmar Area Arts Council.