Public School consolidation in a growing city?

(Image: KELO-TV Screenshot)

Am I the only one that finds it a bit strange we are consolidating schools in a city that is growing? And trying to eliminate schools in the core of the city?

The debate is about the future of their children.  But Sioux Falls parents are learning more about the possibility of three different elementary schools closing. The district held a public input meeting Monday night to discuss some options on the table. But some in the crowd felt the clash came down to community versus money.

I live very close to Longfellow. And this doesn’t surprise me one bit;

It was a full meeting room packed with dozens of citizens arguing about everything from class sizes to technology. But some felt the discussion was a bit one-sided.

“I wasn’t left with the impression, though, that it was to hear our opinions so much as to try and reassure us that our opinions weren’t correct,” Baumgartner said.

Apparently Baumgartner has never experienced Dictator Homan. She WILL do what she wants to and doesn’t give a rat’s ass what you think. They hold these meetings to bring the ‘appearance’ that they care. If they really cared they would keep the schools open, or better yet, rebuild them entirely. The school district spends millions each year in administrative costs, they have the money for bricks and mortar, don’t let them tell you they don’t. That is why I am a big advocate of building the public indoor pool at a HS.

I found this little tidbit interesting in the article;

Monday was just a public input meeting with no decisions being made. In fact, there’ll be another meeting on September 24. During the session, Baumgartner also asked about a rumor that’s been floating around of whether Sanford Health has contacted the district to purchase the Jefferson property. Superintendent Pam Homan flatly denied it. We attempted to contact someone at Sanford, but no official returned our calls.

Wouldn’t surprise me one single bit.

I also want to remind everyone that there are two seats up this Spring for school board. I believe it is Doug Morrison and Julie Westra. Would love to see SEVERAL candidates running against them. I have heard of 3 possibilities already and would love to see more.


#1 rufusx on 09.11.12 at 11:40 am

As an almunus of Longfellow, it would be sad to see it go. DL, you living where you do, could you tell me where the students that attended the former Beadle School (14th and 7th) now go? Weren’t some of them put into the Longfellow district when that school closed years ago?

#2 Alice15 on 09.11.12 at 12:43 pm

She hasn’t had contact with Sanford? Yeah right? That’s what started this whole conversaation. Once again, one of our leaders thinking we are a bunch of morons that can’t put 2 and 2 together.

#3 JTRAIN on 09.11.12 at 12:56 pm

When in doubt point the finger at Sanford? Very irresponsible journalism – reporting on a RUMOR that has zero factual basis.

#4 Alice15 on 09.11.12 at 4:06 pm

Wait and see JTRAIN. Guaranteed this land deal will, has, and is in the works. I use to live in one of those houses that is now gone on the south side of 22nd St 20 years ago. It was made very apparent at that time that “Sioux Valley” was wanting to buy those properties. This is a maybe a football field away from Jefferson. C’mon – common sense works sometimes as well. Jefferson is located by Sanford, Longfellow is located by Avera, Mark Twain is located by neither. Really? No plans in the works?

I am somewhat surprised – and maybe they did – that noone brought up the fact that the Mark Twain property has zero parking except in residential areas – but yet they want to triple the size? What houses are they tearing down?

I see Kelo is going to interview a teacher from Terry Redlin on how their consolidation has worked. Seriously – what is she going to say? It has sucked? Not a chance if she wants to keep her job.

#5 l3wis on 09.11.12 at 9:27 pm

Alice, I would agree I am skeptical anytime Sanford’s name is mentioned, BUT, JTrain has a point,

“Superintendent Pam Homan flatly denied it.”

If Pam says it is not the case, and she is quoted in the media, she is gonna look like a really bad liar in the end.

#6 Scott on 09.11.12 at 9:59 pm

I saw the promo for that fluff piece they’re doing on how great consolidation worked that prior time. Our local news is just disgusting.

#7 l3wis on 09.11.12 at 10:07 pm

It is complete BULLSHIT! We are a growing community, WHY WOULD WE BE CONSOLIDATING SCHOOLS!? It is because Longfellow and Jefferson are in central districts that don’t have the clean white kids going to the schools. Here’s the deal folks, I have no kids, yet I pay for public education thru my property taxes. I am fine with that, it is an investment in our future. What I DO have a problem with is treating certain kids in certain neighborhoods differently because of their economic status.This isn’t private school, this is public education, every child needs to be treated the same, and making kids ride the bus to a different school because they live in a neighborhood that is not ‘appealing’ to the school district isn’t right. I hope the parents fight tooth and nail on this and finally put Homan up against a wall. And BTW, she really needs to eat once and awhile, she looks frail . . .

#8 Alice15 on 09.12.12 at 9:25 am

Jefferson is an interesting school as it has kids that are right across the street and it has kids that are bussed that live just south and east of the YWCA on 69th & Louise. Mark Twain has kids that are right across the street as well and then kids that are bussed from the Prairie Green area. The other interesting thing about MT is about 1/2 of their enrollment is open enrolled. I thing Longfellow is all neighborhood kids – which includes Kate Parker’s kids. I am not a big fan of consolidation as I think we are better than every one of our schools being 600-800 kids. I still think this comes down to land and getting the maximum dollar for that land and I still go back to the MT land. Currently – it is not remotely big enough to triple in size. I wonder if one of the “land purchasers” of the other 2 schools will also pay to rip out houses. They both have experience in this area.

#9 Craig on 09.12.12 at 9:44 am

“We are a growing community, WHY WOULD WE BE CONSOLIDATING SCHOOLS!?”

Sioux Falls is growing – but much of the growth is to the East (Brandon Valley school district) and South (Harrisburg school district), so the actual population of Sioux Falls can be misleading. Any ideas on the enrollments for the schools in question? If they are growing it might explain the need to do something – and does it make sense to remodel two schools to add space if the rest of the building is falling down or in need of massive repairs?

Here is the deal – people have been complaining that the students in the core of our city have been getting the shaft for years as new schools are built around the perimeter but they are left to use the old crumbling buildings. The school board mentioned costs to remodel vs. costs to build new, and it seemed like everyone was pushing to build new.

Wouldn’t this be a net benefit for the kids in those districts? They would get the more modern facility with all the improvements that have been made to schools in the last 50 years. The heating and cooling systems of modern schools combined with wiring improvements (broadband as well as power needs of the modern classroom), larger classrooms, better lighting… there are a lot of reasons kids are better off in a new building.

Consolidation makes sense because you can share resources such as gyms, lunch rooms, resource rooms, libraries etc all of which add a great deal of cost to individual smaller schools.

It comes down to economies of scale. We don’t want 2000 students per elementary school, but having smaller schools with a 300 or 400 each isn’t feasible either – especially when the schools are in need of remodeling. It makes more sense to combine a few older smaller schools into one that meets the needs of the current environment.

My only complaint is that they always jump to the “we need a new school” line instead of giving serious consideration to remodeling / expanding an existing school which may have some history tied to it. I love old buildings, and I hate to see them walk away from them without serious consideration… although I do understand when it comes to issues such as lead paint and asbestos found in the old schools it can often be a better option to build new. For some reason, people get a little scared when they hear the terms “lead paint” or “asbestos” in the same paragraph as “elementary school” or “child”. Rightfully so.

I really think people need to remove the emotion and the nostalgia from this issue and look at the facts objectively. Think about what is best in the long term not only for the city, but for those specific kids in that specific district. I have a hard time believing we can’t support a new school if the existing schools are in as rough shape as they claim.

#10 Anthony D. Renli on 09.12.12 at 12:04 pm

I can’t speak to anything relating to Longfellow…as I’ve never been there, but having gone to Mark Twain 357 years ago (and my dad having been a janitor there, and living less than a block from there)- here is what I can tell you –

To get to the gym or orchestra room, you need to go down two flights of stairs to a basement.

There are classrooms that were on a second floor flight that could only be reached by a flight of stairs.

To make Mark Twain ADA compliant, they would have to install at least two elevators (because the downstairs gym is on the south side of the building, the upstairs classrooms are on the north side of the building), widen the doors, etc. I actually don’t doubt the school system when they say that it would cost millions of dollars simply to be meet these requirements.

Combine this with the fact that it is an old building and needs a fair bit of work it may make sense to rebuild it.

Should it be rebuilt in its current location or someplace else? I’m not sure. But it’s current location has no parking for teachers or staff (they park on the street in front of houses). If they rebuilt it, in the current location, they’d be looking at being closed for at least a year. If the build in another location, they could continue running classes during construction.

#11 Tom H. on 09.12.12 at 1:03 pm

School buildings are neighborhood amenities (at least they used to be), not just the facilities that they are treated as today. Growing up, our neighborhood elementary school was also the local playground, and was a natural meeting place for many people in the neighborhood.

Think anybody’s going to spontaneously show up at the new Rosa Parks school, surrounded by high-speed roads and fenced off from the surrounding ‘neighborhood’?

#12 l3wis on 09.12.12 at 2:28 pm

Tom makes a good point. Neighborhood schools surrounded by homes are an asset.

#13 Helga on 09.13.12 at 1:43 am

Are they closing Jefferson because they have no more kids in the area? If so why build a pool at Spellerberg if there aren’t any kids? Or are they closing Jefferson because Sandford wants the land? At the rate that Sanford is grabbing up houses there will be no one paying property taxes.

#14 l3wis on 09.13.12 at 2:38 am

Helga – One thing I have learned about ALL government entities in this city is that it is ALWAYS a business decision, not a citizen decision. There is something deeper going on here, and I hope at least someone with the school district has the bravery to spill the beans.

#15 Alice15 on 09.13.12 at 9:14 am

“Someone with the school district has the bravery to spill the beans?” If you are counting on an employee or one of our lackluster school board members – you were obviously drinking a fifth of something at 2:38am this morning when you posted that. We will not know the “truth” (if that exists) until this deal is inked.

#16 Alice15 on 09.13.12 at 9:17 am

And Helga – the reason you build this indoor pool is so all ages and generations can utilize it 52 weeks out of the year – not just kids (which I have 2 of my own and we live in this neighborhood). That is one of the aspects and its location that I find completely appealing about this project. It is in the central part of our city and on a bus route so ALL may enjoy it if they have the desire to be healthy human beings.

#17 Helga on 09.13.12 at 11:23 am

When was the last time a kid got on a bus to get to a swimming pool?

#18 Alice15 on 09.13.12 at 9:42 pm

Kids get on the bus all the time. That is how many kids get around SF. Look at the opportunity instead of the negativity. Put it this way – if you put the pool on the outskirts of town such as the new Sanford Complex – the bus route does not go there.

As far as kids – there are many in this neighborhood hence you have Laura Wilder Elem among other schools.

#19 l3wis on 09.14.12 at 5:09 am

Alice – Actually they are looking into running routes to the Sanford Sports Complex.

#20 Alice15 on 09.15.12 at 11:32 pm

They will look into it – but it won’t happen. If they haven’t added routes to STI or University Center – it is going to be awhile until they add routes to this complex.

#21 Detroit Lewis on 09.16.12 at 10:43 pm

They do run to STI

#22 Lex on 09.30.12 at 7:58 am

Wild Water West is as far out of town as you can get and that place is packed…and it’s overpriced in my opinion. I don’t think the Sanford Sports Complex’s location can be used as an argument as far as the Indoor Pool location goes. If you build it they will come.
As far as the consolidaiton goes, I strongly oppose it. New doesn’t always mean better, and it is very possible to modernize an old building with technology. DSU is a great example of this. That is a very historic campus with some of the best technology access in the state. I do understand the accessability issue, but I doubt that the school board has really looked at ways to convert the existing buildings seriously. I think that they are just using it as a sensitive issue that ensures they get their way. Call me old fashioned, but I am all for small neighborhood schools and neighborhood pools that are outdoors.