SIOUX FALLS, SD -
The Tea Area School District is campaigning for support of an $11 million bond that will build a new school and expand two others. But a group of neighbors say they want nothing to do with the district and are rallying support against the bond.
A group of 29 homeowners in the Westwood Valley subdivision are fighting to leave the Tea area school district, arguing they are within one mile of Sioux Falls schools but nearly 6 miles from Tea.
While they fight for their children to get a Sioux Falls education, they argue the district is building in their area to cement footing in the southwest section of Sioux Falls.
But Tea's school district says their enrollment is growing in that area and they need to prepare for future growth. The district wants to build a new school in southwest Sioux Falls near the Family Wellness Center on Tea Ellis Road.
They plan to pay for the school and the expansion of two other schools with a multi-million dollar bond.
"The Tea area is about serving all of our kids," Lowery said. "We have seen huge increases in enrollment in this area. We see future growth, future building."
Superintendent Jennifer Lowery says enrollment is growing 6 percent each year. If approved, taxes would increase $134 annually for a home worth $100,000.
"In the elementary that we currently have, we have second graders in buildings that are outside of our main building so they have to come in to do lunch, come in to do their specials, they have to come in to use the rest rooms. That's not ideal for anybody," Lowery said.
But a group of neighbors in the Westwood Valley subdivision are campaigning against the bond, not just because they don't want higher taxes, but because they don't want their kids in the Tea school district.
"Most of the students in the subdivision are already open-enrolling to Sioux Falls, the school that they want to build is going to have empty classrooms," Chad Zortman said.
Zortman lives in the neighborhood but has already open-enrolled his child into the Sioux Falls School district, which is just across Tea Ellis Road.
He says Superintendent Lowery is using the bond issue to grab a foothold in an area with a strong tax base, even though 29 families are asking to leave because they feel they live closer to Sioux Falls district.
"Ten to twelve years ago, this was the Lennox School District, (Tea) fought hard to make it the Tea School District," Zortman said. "Now they're trying hard not to let it be Sioux Falls."
In January, homeowners in the Westwood Valley subdivision petitioned to be in the Sioux Falls school district. The Tea Area School District denied the request.
Homeowners are asking a second time but Zortman fears the outcome will be the same.
Superintendent Lowery denies the bond accusations in the border war.
The Sioux Falls school district has accepted requests for the subdivision to enter their district.
Homeowners will have a chance to vote for the $11 million bond issue on September 24.
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