• January 2020

School boundary process
requires input

Sioux Falls was a different community the last time school attendance boundaries went through a major revision. The city was growing, but had not yet been fueled by major expansion in the medical community. Cultural diversity, beyond that provided to us by the state's Native American heritage, was still a relatively new concept here on the open plains of South Dakota.

...community input makes good plans even better.

Fast-forward 25 years and Sioux Falls has grown up and, in turn, out-grown its current capacity in the public schools. Thanks to unprecedented support, Sioux Falls voters passed a $190 million bond that will upgrade 14 existing facilities and build a new high school, new middle school and new elementary school by 2024. In the dialogue leading up to that September 2018 vote, it became clear that with new schools coming online, attendance boundaries would need an overhaul. The design of those new boundaries begins in 2020.

In January, the Sioux Falls School District begins a six-month-long process that will affect the lives of thousands of children, their parents and our community in general. Long-time District employees who were involved in the past call it one of the most significant undertakings in the history of their work in education. I anticipate it will be just that.

A 30-member task force has been selected to gather information and make recommendations. They will do their work in three public meetings in January and February and make recommendations that will then be taken to the broader community for input during the months of March and April. Public meetings are scheduled at each of the five middle schools. School leaders will present the recommendations and listen to feedback. All reasonable input that is in line with the priorities approved by the School Board will be considered. Those priorities include:

•  Priority 1: Quality Education for All Students
•  Priority 2: Student Safety/Well-Being
•  Priority 3: Budget Considerations
•  Priority 4: Natural Borders as School Boundary Lines
•  Priority 5: Accommodate Growth and Change

The final plan will be voted upon by the school board in June 2020, but will not go into effect until the new schools open in the fall of 2021. I assure you there is no preconceived plan already drawn up and hiding in a backroom. I firmly believe, and the District has demonstrated through its process to develop the plan for the bond, that community input makes good plans even better.

As your superintendent, I look forward to participating in good and thoughtful dialogue to move our school district forward. I fully expect it will be an emotional issue. The good news is that all our schools are well-maintained, welcoming and safe places to learn.

Sioux Falls has much to be proud of and I know the outcome of this difficult work will only make our schools and our community stronger. I invite you to become engaged in the process to ensure the best quality education for future generations.

Dr. Brian Maher is the Superintendent of Sioux Falls Public Schools.

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