SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls School Board will review another boundary option for high school at a meeting Wednesday evening. Option A2 arrived after the majority of the board had approved the first reading of boundary Option A at its June 8 meeting.
The boundary work has lasted about 18 months. A task force was established to develop options for middle school and high school boundaries. The district task force/boundary information on the website lists five priorities and within those priorities, the need to try and maintain contiguous neighborhoods, balancing economic status in secondary schools, ensure equitable space, anticipate growth and aging out neighborhoods and other considerations.
School board Chairwoman Cynthia Mickelson said today’s meeting should be the last in which any new option is presented and discussed. The board needs to stay on track for approval of new middle school and high school boundaries at the June 22 meeting, she said.
“We are trying to make some small tweaks if it makes sense in terms of geography and demographics,” Mickelson said. “At some point we have to say, ‘We’re done.'”
A2 came about in response to some parent concerns in the Lincoln High School area, she said. Parents were concerned about distance to a different high school and other factors, Mickelson said.
Mickelson said A2 isn’t much different from Option A. Mickelson declined to say which option she supports because she believes it should be discussed first, but she said the “numbers speak for themselves.”
An interactive map has been developed by the school district to show the boundaries.
Under Option A and A2, the full-time student capacity at Lincoln and Washington High Schools would be above 90% capacity while capacity at Roosevelt and Jefferson would be below 85% capacity, based on existing post open enrollment student counts and projected new boundary student counts.
Mickelson said the 90% is caused by two major reasons: open enrollment and population density in the high school areas.
Lincoln High School has a net gain of 550 students who open enroll to the high school. Four-hundred are from within the Sioux Falls District and 150 are from outside the district, according to a data profile on the school district website.
Lincoln would have 2,176 under Option A and 2,157 under Option A2 in post open enrollment numbers. The enrollment at 85% capacity is 1,774 and at 90% it’s 1,879. Under either new option, Lincoln would be over 90% capacity as it currently is with 2,063.
Washington has a net loss of 100 students in open enrollment but the school area has high population, Mickelson said.
At 85%, Washington’s enrollment is 1,732 and at 90%, it’s 1,833. Under Option A, the enrollment would be 1,839 and under Option A2, it would be 2,178. The current post open enrollment number is 1,999.
The district can’t reduce the number of students who open enroll to the schools because once those students are accepted, the school can’t break the contract, Mickelson said.
Roosevelt has been at or above 90% capacity already, Mickelson said. There is no real opportunity to open enroll into the high school because of capacity, she said.
Roosevelt’s enrollment is 2,105 and the 90% capacity enrollment is 1,901. Enrollment at 85% capacity is 1,796.
Under Option A, Roosevelt’s enrollment would be 1,932 and under Option A2, enrollment would be 1,612.
Jefferson is being built in an area of growth so capacity will need to accommodate growth, Mickelson said. While growth can come from within the district, it can also be through open enrollment from students within the district and outside the district, she said.
The high school is near several post-secondary options, which can be an additional attraction for students, Mickelson said.
Jefferson’s combined enrollment also includes 300 students in the New Technology High School.
At 90%, its capacity is 2,052 and at 85%, it’s 1,961. Jefferson’s combined enrollment would be 1,703 under both options.
Mickelson said the school board and district are committed to keeping class sizes small in the high schools.
A consideration in the boundary process is balancing economic status across secondary schools.
The most recent data profile information is from 2018-2019 and it shows that 33.8% of the cumulative high school enrollment of 7,019 students qualified for free and reduced meals.
The free and reduced percentages used in this story for the schools include open enrollment numbers.
Under Option A and Option A2, Washington High School would still have the largest percentage of students on free and reduced meals in the four existing high schools. The percentage would increase from 44% to 47% under Option A and to 51% under Option A2.
Jefferson would have the highest percentage at 49% with both options and include New Tech. Lincoln’s percentage would increase from 30% to 40% under Option A and to 37% under Option A2. Roosevelt’s would increase from 28% to 35% under Option A and to 32% under Option A2.
Mickelson said trying to balance economic status is a difficult task because some geographic areas have higher concentrations students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
The process has been very thorough, Mickelson said. The district and school board want the best option but are willing to adjust if circumstances change in the future.