SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The sound of construction crews rang out Friday morning at John F. Kennedy Elementary. 

The west-side elementary school, which was built in the late 1980s, is undergoing upgrades that will take two years to finish. Jeff Kreiter, who serves as the operational services director for the Sioux Falls School District, was overlooking work at JFK and compared the project to upgrades made in the past two years at Cleveland Elementary near 18th Street and Bahnson Avenue in eastern Sioux Falls. 

Like the project that is wrapping up at Cleveland Elementary, JFK is getting a new gym.

“There’s a lot of dominoes with that,” Kreiter told KELOLAND News. “We’re renovating the classroom areas as well. We’re doing two of them this summer, then the following one will be the following summer.”

The new gym is expected to be finished by the spring and allows for more renovations to take place inside the school like the repurposing of the old gym into a multipurpose music area. 

“We’ll have the parking lot done before school starts,” said Kreiter, who added construction will take place outside when school starts but there won’t be any construction work happening inside. “We’ll start getting security fences and things up and ready to go when the kids get here.”    

The upgrades at JFK elementary are part of the $190 million bond passed by voters in 2018 that also included funding for new schools Jefferson High School and Ben Reifel Middle School. Upgrades at Roosevelt and Washington High Schools are also happening this summer 

At Roosevelt and Washington, additions for training rooms, fitness centers and gym renovations are taking place this summer. At Lincoln High School, field turf is being installed at the school’s football field and practice field. 

Field turf will also be coming to Roosevelt and Washington next summer to give all the high schools field turf. Kreiter said the upgrades are all part of keeping the schools meeting the district’s standards. 

With the start of school 27 days away, Kreiter’s advice for parents is to pay attention to what construction is taking place. 

“For the most part, we’ve been pretty successful in keeping the principal and everybody in the know about what’s happening,” Kreiter said. “We’re going to try to have all the safety measures in place so the kids are safe. That’s our main goal.” 

Dealing with supply chain issues

Kreiter described the upgrades at JFK, Cleveland, Roosevelt and Washington as the biggest four construction projects happening for the Sioux Falls School District this summer. 

Last year, the school district opened Jefferson High School and Ben Reifel Middle School and Kreiter said the new schools are in great shape after one year of use. 

On the left, the new gym at Cleveland Elementary in 2022.
On the right, walls going up for the new gym at Cleveland Elementary in 2021.

For two-year projects like Cleveland and JFK, Kreiter said supply chain issues and concrete shortages have made it harder to navigate. 

“You can’t get ahead of yourself. You don’t want to tear something out that you’re not going to get,” Kreiter said. “We always have to be thinking when it’s coming and what it is.” 

Last year, Kreiter said one school was going to tear out an air conditioning chiller to be replaced but because the replacement chiller had yet to arrive, crews waited. 

“Good thing that happened because the chiller didn’t come until October so we would not have had any air conditioning for the start of school,” Kreiter said. “Chiller came in, we installed it over the winter and you just got to know not to get ahead of yourself.”

Along with bigger upgrades, the school district spends roughly $400,000 on carpet replacements at various schools, nearly $500,000 on concrete replacements and $600,000 for roof repairs and replacements. 

“That’s normal every year,” Kreiter said.      

A new northwest elementary school is still in the planning stage and Kreiter said updates on what a future time frame will look like will be discussed at upcoming school board meetings.