Increased student enrollment forces Memorial Middle School to 'get creative'

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - At a meeting Wednesday, the Sioux Falls School District announced a problem, there is not enough space at schools for the student population.
For the first time in 20 years, the district could be bringing a bond to tax payers to address overcrowding at schools.
The rising student population is affecting many schools in Sioux Falls, especially the largest middle school in the state.

Crowding at Memorial Middle School has changed the rhythm of the music program.

“We have come up with very creative ways this year to ensure that our students have room for the bodies. So, we've taken a lot of stuff out of our rooms just to ensure that we actually have physical space for our students to have an effective classroom,” music teacher Cathy Sundvold said.

This room will hold 100 students during some class periods.
That's why it doesn’t have chairs. Students use the risers.

Classroom space is limited.

“That room was never intended to be a classroom,” Principal Carrie Aaron said.

This room was used for the music program, now it is utilized for smaller classes.

The school even got rid of the teachers' lounge to make another classroom.
Not having enough rooms isn't even the school's biggest problem.

“It's the common spaces that have become quite the challenge,” Aaron said.

There isn't an empty seat at lunch in the cafeteria.

“We serve between 460 and 470 kids in 30 minutes, get them back to class,” Aaron said.

And P.E. is packed.

“The gym, 120 kids at a time in there,” Aaron said.

Memorial Middle School served 750 kids when it opened in 1995. Since then the student population has doubled.

“In the last 5 years we've gained nearly 300 students. The last time I checked we were at 1,380 students,” Aaron said.

In the best interest of students…

“It's all about the kids. They're our future. We got to be prepared for them,” Aaron said.

This music teacher hopes the district's idea of updating facilities can strike a chord with Sioux Falls tax payers.

“We're going to have to find more space because this area around Memorial isn't getting any smaller,” Sundvold said.

Aaron says the school is still serving students well, it's just facing new challenges with finding space.

"I think we still have a very smooth running school, it’s just getting the amount of space that we need for the kids especially considering that we continue to grow," Aaron said.

The Sioux Falls School District is in the initial stage of determining the best way to address the growing number of students.
Superintendent Brian Maher says community engagement is going to be a vital part of figuring out how to best serve students in the future.