SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Could the Sioux Falls school district be asking for a tax increase?
The district is looking at the option of bringing a bond to people who live in Sioux Falls for the first time in more than 20 years to help address the need for more space for students.
The district has a problem. It’s running out of room for students at its current facilities.
At a meeting Wednesday, Superintendent Brian Maher outlined a plan to address this issue and it ends with a possible bond election next September.
Students pack the halls at Lincoln High School.
It's one of three high schools in Sioux Falls at 90% capacity, which is 10% higher than what architects recommend.
“The problem is that we have more students than our facilities will accommodate,” Superintendent Maher said.
Not having enough classrooms is an issue for the district.
“So we start using other spaces, spaces that maybe once were a conference room, or I know in one instance where we're using the teacher's work room as a classroom,” Maher said.
“If we aren't providing enough classrooms for our students, or the students aren't in a good learning environment to learn properly, that becomes a problem,” school board member Cynthia Mickelson said.
Before the district considered updating facilities it wanted to evaluate how buildings are being utilized.
“I think we're fully utilizing the spaces available at the high schools and most of the middle schools. I think we've really got to look at some solutions in the very short term,” Maher said.
The district estimates next year there will be nearly 23,855 kids enrolled in school. In 2023 that number could increase by about 900 students.
“We think we are going to trend up quite a little bit over the next several years and the biggest reason we think that is because births in Minnehaha County continue to rise. In fact, the largest birth year yet was 2015, those kids aren't yet in school,” Maher said.
Now that the district officials have defined the problem, it's time to find out what the solution could be.
"You can add on to the current facilities, you can build new facilities, you could potentially buy facilities that you could use as school buildings,” Maher said.
But they won't make any decisions without hearing from community members.
Community involvement is a top priority for the school district as they navigate this process.
The district plans to hold several different community engagement sessions and is even hiring a consultant to figure out the best way to get input from the public.
The district plans to put a proposal request out for the consultant Thursday.