A Closer Look At School Bond Decision

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - School has only been in session for a week in Sioux Falls, but we're getting a first look at how many students are in class this year. Fall enrollment is projected to be 2,200 students at Roosevelt High School  and 1,354 students at Memorial Middle School. Those are the two highest populated schools in Sioux Falls. Those numbers are expected to keep growing.  Many schools are beyond capacity. 

On September 18, voters could make more room for students if they pass a $190 million bond. The District's Superintendent has been talking with the community, and says the money would do more than just pay for new buildings. 

They may not be in the lunch room, Kathy Sunvold's students are hungry for a song. 

"Music is good for us because it feeds the soul," Sunvold said. 

Before these choir students can make music at Memorial Middle School, their teacher is giving them a few notes about where they'll be sitting this year. 

"Music is very popular here and it's very big, and we're very excited to have such a growing and wonderful program," Sunvold said. 

In fact, choir, band, and orchestra classes are so full, some of the students do have to sit in the actual lunch room. Part of the band class is in the cafeteria right now, because there's not enough room in the classroom. As for Sunvold, there are 65 students in her choir class.

"That is a lot and we have room for a few more, but we try to cap out at about 70 students, because physically that's all the space we have room for," Sunvold said. 

Sunvold says Memorial Middle School had about 700 students when it opened in 1995.  Since then, that number has doubled. 

"It doesn't look like we've gotten any smaller, that's for sure," Brian Maher, superintendent, said.

Sioux Falls School leaders estimate the district will have about 25,000 students five years from now. 

"We've been out in the community a lot, making sure folks get as up to speed as they can get on this topic," Maher said. 

On September 18, voters will decide on a $190 million bond. Maher says part of the money would pay for a new high school, a new middle school, and a new elementary school. That's not all.  $50 million of that money would go toward new safety and security upgrades for existing schools in the district. 

"We've got two buildings that don't have the perimeter security we'd like and that's entering into a vestibule and then having to be allowed into the building," Maher said. 

If voters decide to pass the bond, here's what it will mean for your wallet. Depending on the value of your property, most homeowners in the district would pay about $2 more per month. Initially, the $190 million bond was at $280 million.   Maher says the task force looking at the issue cut $90 million out of that. If the bond doesn't pass in this election, Maher doesn't expect much to change for any future election. 

"That's not a decision I get to make, but it would surprise me if we would come back and do less," Maher said. 

Sunvold is glad looking at ways to accommodate growth is part of a community conversation. 

"We need to address the problem now and plan for the future," Sunvold said. 

No matter what voters decide, Sunvold says this won't change. 

"We're going to do our very best to make sure they get the best possible education no matter how many of them are here. Whether we have small classes or large class sizes, the teachers and the staff and the administration are working really hard to ensure these kids are getting equal opportunities across the board," Sunvold said. 

This election is on September 18, but you can vote now. Absentee voting is open until September 8. 

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