Driving through Brandon and Harrisburg, it’s easy to notice all the new development in both cities. But just how much their school districts have grown might surprise you. On the southern edge of Sioux Falls, the Harrisburg School District is known for being one of the fastest growing districts in the state.
“If you just go back to the early 2000s, 2001, 2002, we were at an enrollment of about 750-some kids, and so to look at today being almost 5,200,” Harrisburg School District Superintendent Tim Graf said.
The Brandon Valley School District on the eastern edge of Sioux Falls is seeing a similar trend. Superintendent Jarod Larson says in fall 2001, his district had 2,600 kids. Now that number is more than 4,400.
“We have experienced consistent and manageable growth over the course of the last few years and our history, really,” Larson said. “Last year we had 197 new students, this year we experienced 177 additional students as far as enrollment growth goes.”
Another way is to look at the number of kindergarteners and how that compares to the number of older students. Larson says graduating classes at Brandon Valley High School have around 250 students.
“We’re bringing in about 350 kindergartners, between 350 and 375, so we see an automatic 100 additional students with our graduation versus incoming kindergarten students,” Larson said. “That will level off as our graduating classes get a little bit larger, but we do anticipate and plan that our growth will continue.”
Harrisburg is also trying to accommodate more high school grads.
“Our current high school has almost 1,200 students in it, and the capacity, we’ve really reached the capacity from a building standpoint, and that’s the reason for the addition to the high school now,” Graf said. “Because our kindergarten class is so much larger than our older grades, so we have 478 kindergartners currently, we are going to see so much growth in the high school level, that we will outgrow even with the addition in about three years.”
To keep up with the growth, both school districts are planning expansions.
“Right now in the Brandon Valley School District we are in the process of construction planning for an elementary school located on 41st St. and Sparta,” Larson said.
“We’re building a seventh elementary right now,” Graf said. “We also have a freshman academy that’s under construction, planned to be open by August of 2020.”
Graf says the academy refers to where the students will be in the building. There’s also expansion on the horizon at Brandon Valley High School.
“The Brandon Valley High School will get an addition in the future, I would say we’re probably three years out from an addition at the Brandon Valley High School, three to five years out,” Larson said. “Some of that depends a little bit on how enrollment continues to grow and whatnot.”
Graf says the Harrisburg School District also has to take into account the expansion of Sioux Falls as he looks at expected enrollment growth in his district.
“I think we really anticipate that, just because of the growth of the Sioux Falls area and about half of our buildings are in the city limits of Sioux Falls,” Graf said.
“Ultimately, rooftops drive student growth,” Larson said. “At the end of the day, where the houses are going and the rooftops are going, that’s where the schools need to go because the kiddos need to learn.”