The Harrisburg School District is already making more room for more students, but leaders know once one project is done, it’ll be time to begin another.
Right now, the district is building a new elementary school and adding space to its high school for 450 more students. It’s all part of a $40-million bond voters approved in October. Prior to this, school district leaders feared crowding at schools and classrooms over capacity in the coming years, thanks to Harrisburg’s status as one of the fastest growing districts in the area. Growth is a big focus for the incoming superintendent.
It’s true for real estate, and true for education.
“There’s no doubt that it’s location location location,” Jim Holbeck, retiring superintendent, said.
Harrisburg School District Superintendent Jim Holbeck says that’s why the district keeps growing so fast.
“People like to be near Sioux Falls and all of the things that Sioux Falls has to offer, and we’re very close from Harrisburg city limits to Sioux Falls,” Holbeck said.
The district expects more than 5,000 students this year. Holbeck has seen that number surge from just 1,200 when he started 12 years ago. As he prepares to retire on Monday, he says the new elementary school and high school addition in the works won’t be enough.
“There’s no doubt Harrisburg is going to need a second high school and it’s probably not that many years away,” Holbeck said.
Incoming superintendent, Tim Graf, says he’s up for the challenge.
“The wheels are already in motion, so to speak, for that as there are already locations for the other middle school,” Tim Graf said.
As the district accommodates more students, Graf says maintaining a staff of enough teachers goes hand-in-hand with new facilities.
“It really comes down to the people. It’s more about people then facilities and programs in the end, but facilities definitely help,” Graf said.
Even with all of these changes, Holbeck says the district won’t be moving away from the core small town feel parents are used to.
“We get to know kids better when we have that small school feel. Kids get an identity with that school. They get to know the other kids around. So, the fear of it being a large school doesn’t resonate with the kids,” Holbeck said.
KELOLAND News is talking more with Holbeck and Graf about the upcoming changes, and what’s ahead for both men. You can see this conversation on Sunday night’s Inside KELOLAND, after the late local news.