SIOUX FALLS, SD -
For one Sioux Falls dad, the moment his five-year-old daughter, Addily, runs to him after school is one of his favorite parts of the day. Between picking up his kindergartener and eating lunch with her at her school once a week, David Andersen spends a lot of time at Mark Twain Elementary. He is not ready for it to end.
Andersen is helping parents take to the internet to speak out against possible consolidations of Sioux Falls schools. A new online petition drive is urging school board members to vote against consolidating Mark Twain, Jefferson and Longfellow Elementary Schools into one new 600 student school to be built at the Mark Twain site.
"There's a lot of good tools on the internet, so it was easier to spread the word on Facebook. It's pretty efficient to get a lot of people involved quickly," Andersen said
Andersen started the petition on November 10, and just a few days later, it had about 100 supporters. Hundreds of others have already signed various other petitions, and/or have spoken out at public meetings.
Andersen said he is not trying to be a leader, but he's just trying to help make sure schools like Mark Twain stay open. Parents supporting the petition say there is a need for smaller neighborhood schools. According to Sioux Falls School District officials, there is a need for a bigger school supporting student growth and the need for technology in the classroom. Sioux Falls School Board President Douglas Morrison said he has read the comments on online and understands why parents are concerned.
"When you're on the school board, most decisions you're not going to make everybody happy," Morrison said. "I respect them and I know they moved into those communities and the school is part of the community. I don't want to devalue their opinion. I certainly understand their side of it. The school board has a very difficult decision to make."
Andersen was at a recent public meeting in September and is not sure the school board is taking this feedback seriously.
"What I walked away with was they weren't in a hurry to make a decision, they were open to all ideas, nothing is off the table," Andersen said. "30 days later they're ready to vote on consolidating and that's what it appears they want to do. Obviously, the superintendent is recommending it."
Morrison emphasizes that no decisions have been made, but said board members have to do what is best for students and taxpayers.
"We know we have the lowest paid teachers in the country. All of that goes into this consolidation. From a dollars and cents perspective, that returns about $800,000 that we can use for other things," Morrison said.
Andersen is not sure how signatures from his petition will fit in with other petitions against the possible consolidation, but he hopes it gets attention.
"I just wanted to be able to go in front of the board and say, 'Look, there's a lot of people who don't think you should do this. I think you should reconsider,'" Andersen said.
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