SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — In about a week and a half, a new school year will begin for Sioux Falls School District students, families and staff. That includes the new Jefferson High School, which will welcome kids for the very first time. Melissa Hittner will teach physics and environmental science at Jefferson.
“It kind of feels like you’re living history,” Hittner said. “I hear a lot about when, ‘Oh when Roosevelt opened,’ or ‘Oh yeah I went to Washington back when it was downtown,’ and I feel like I’m a part of that historical transition from one building to another.”
If the start of a new semester or new school year is like the beginning of a new chapter, than the start of a new school is like a whole new book.
“We just have the luxury of not having the baggage of ‘that’s how we did it last year,’ ’cause we didn’t do it last year, so we get to decide how we do it this year which then we can talk about if that was right or wrong next year,” said Ed Whiting, chair of the social studies department at Jefferson High School.
Leadership runs in Whiting’s family; his oldest child Morgan will be the school’s first student body president.
“You spend the summer with family and chasing kids around and things of that nature, and you kind of have to shift gears, couple weeks, sometimes a month, going into the school year,” Whiting said. “This year, it’s just, everything’s new, it’s different, and the idea of starting something new was definitely attractive to me as an option to come over to Jefferson from Roosevelt High School.”
Diedra Nissen is also a department chair; she’s in her leadership role with the math department.
“We were a part of creating and hiring our staff, and so that was a great piece to be a part of and melding of who we need and also when we’re hiring staff, what other things,” Nissen said. “When we’re starting a new school, we really look for people who can be involved in multiple places.”
These three all exemplify that versatility. Nissen is head competitive cheer coach, Whiting is defensive coordinator with the football team and Hittner is coordinator of project-based learning.
“It does feel like a new house, where you got to figure out where all the furniture needs to go and what you want to hang on the walls where, and it’s interesting because usually when you change buildings, you’re like the only one,” Hittner said. “But this time everyone is in the same exact boat. So that’s kind of a fun feeling, you can feel it in the building. everyone settling in and nesting.”
“If you walk in Jefferson, you’re almost going to feel like you’re in a college campus,” Nissen said. “Like this reminds me so much of the union at SDSU and all these common learning spaces and tables and places for kids to work and learn.”
The story of Jefferson High School, which has barely begun, will have many authors.
“I think it’s about building culture and recognizing the individual components that go in to building that culture, I think that that’s important, but I guess I see it more as building a foundation to build on,” Whiting said.
The first day of school for the Sioux Falls School District is August 26.