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School Closing and Consolidation Issue on Agenda Nov. 26

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(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The Sioux Falls School District is dealing with a complex and emotional issue. Should Longfellow and Jefferson elementary schools be closed, and should Mark Twain elementary be torn down and rebuilt on the same site but larger?

Schools can be part of the fabric of a neighborhood. They can give an area identity. Buildings, even ones of unique and historical design, can become functionally obsolete.  The number of children living in a particular school area can fluctuate a great deal in just a few years. There are emotional ties to neighborhood schools. There are practical matters involving money regarding keeping low attendance schools open.

Will spending big bucks upgrading the school with the latest construction, technology, and education issues in mind, bring people back into the attendance area? What is the best school size, for education quality, experience, and management of limited resources?

Many people have signed petitions opposing the closing of Longfellow and Jefferson. I would imagine most of them did so for emotional reasons. “I went there.” “It’s in my neighborhood,” etc.

The school district has an obligation to make decisions not based on emotions. They must decide these issues based on providing a quality, effective, meaningful, and affordable education for children.

We have a conflict of interests in play.

Here is an idea. Longfellow is near the Avera Campus. Jefferson is near Sanford’s.

Let’s put their creative minds to work, figuring out how they, as medical facilities and places of education, could use those schools for the common good. Could a couple of additional specialized schools be the result? Could a hybrid of K-6, and higher education result?

The City of Sioux Falls has a stake in what happens in the core area of the community. Both of these schools, and hospitals are in the core area. Maybe city government should be added to the discussion.

To the folks who signed the petitions, I applaud your desires. Now, I challenge you to do more. Volunteer at the school you care about. Mentor a child, help in the cafeteria, or the library. To solidify a school’s place in the community, more than petition signing and attending meetings needs to be done.

By the way, the next public school board  discussion on this issue will take place on November 26, at the Instruction Planning Center on 38th street just off Phillips Ave.

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