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Will New School Swallow Up Homes?

November 30, 2012, 5:58 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Will New School Swallow Up Homes?

A new Sioux Falls Elementary School is coming to the center of town, but just how much space will it take up? The School Board approved a plan this week to tear down Longfellow and Mark Twain in favor of a new elementary school built at the Mark Twain site.

District officials say the new building will be modeled off of Terry Redlin Elementary in Sioux Falls, but the plans will be tweaked.

“We need to be conscious of how many buses, drop off areas, and how we're going to get kids safe from the street,” school operations director Jeff Kreiter said.

The facility doubles the capacity of the current Mark Twain elementary, leaving neighbors to wonder if it will fit on the school district’s land.

“They just remodeled it. They tuck-pointed it not too long ago and now they're going to tear it down,” Larry Kelso said as he pointed to the school grounds located just over a fence bordering his driveway.

Kelso’s daughter went to Mark Twain. School neighbors have all heard of the building plan by now. Some, like Merry Close, are looking forward to it.

“It's only going to help her future and her future prospects. So I think this is a wonderful thing to do,” Close said.

Her daughter just started kindergarten at Mark Twain this year. She is a proponent of the new building, but even she has questions.

“We're just waiting to see who contacts us and go from there,” Close said. “But I think it's exciting!”

“There are a lot of pieces we don't know yet,” Kreiter said. “Where it sits, how it's going to incorporate into the site. We know it fits on the site.”

Not everyone in the neighborhood is convinced everything will fit, fueling speculation that the school district will need to buyout homeowners as plans progress.

“I'd be interested in selling,” Kelso said.

“Anything's a possibility at this point. It's too early. We just don't know,” Kreiter said.

Kreiter believes if the district needed to buy properties, only a small number of properties would be snatched up. But as plans move forward, even that is just speculation.

“[We won’t know] until we know where the front doors are going to be, or where the people want the front door,” Kreiter said.

The district has set aside $760,000 land and parking costs at the Mark Twain site. Officials say they will also be contacting teachers and staff from both Mark Twain and Longfellow, along with community and neighborhood residents as the building planning phase continues. Construction is not expected to begin until 2014

Even as the school district moves forward, a group pledging to save the small historic school slated for closure is making its own plans, holding a meeting Saturday, December 1, 1:30 p.m. at the Gage E Services building on 14th Street and Phillips Avenue.

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