Simplified: The Sioux Falls School District is looking at several options for replacing Whittier Middle School, but before any design begins, board members have to decide where exactly they want to put it.

Why it matters

  • Whittier is the oldest school building in use today. It opened in 1923 as an elementary school and later was expanded to become a middle school.
  • Because it's in the core of the city and surrounded by existing homes, there's no way to build new without tearing down neighboring homes, a reality accounted for in a 2018 bond that set aside funding to start buying up properties in the neighborhood.
  • School board members, as well as Superintendent Jane Stavem, said this week they want to be respectful of the neighborhood throughout this process. That's part of the reason for a new option presented this week that would require at least 10 fewer properties than previous plans laid out.
"We need to be very conscious of affordable housing and the convenience of our students to live near their schools," Board President Carly Reiter said.

Tell me more about the options for a new school

Since the 2018 bond, the district has purchased nine properties – with two more in negotiations – all in the two blocks between the existing school and the existing football field.

  • Between 20 and 40 more properties may be needed, depending on the final lot plan, according to information Operational Services Director Jeff Kreiter shared with board members earlier this week.

First, it's worth noting that all three of the options keep the new school in the Whittier neighborhood.

  • All existing options also involve keeping the current building in-use while a new one is constructed so kids still have a place to go to school the entire time.

The first option is the one initially discussed back in 2018 when the district started seriously looking at a replacement plan for the aging building.

  • Essentially, it's a plan to purchase the two blocks between the existing building/parking lot and the school football field.
  • That'll mean a total site of 19.6 acres and a need to tear down 39 houses.

Here's a sketch of that site plan (not the final design):

The second option would have the school on a site west of the existing football field, in part in an effort to make more of a connection to downtown and the future Riverline District, Stavem noted.

  • This plan would require purchase of 48 properties, and the optional purchase of another eight.

Here's a look at what that site plan looks like:

The third (and newest) option would preserve the greatest number of existing homes and close off a portion of Fourth and Fifth Streets to fit the building largely between Indiana and Fairfax Avenues.

  • This would create a 15.5-acre site and require purchase of 29 homes and one church.

Here's a look at that plan:

What happens next?

The district will continue to reach out to the community for feedback, and board members will ultimately decide where the new school will sit.

Then the district would aim to finalize design by 2026, begin construction by 2028 and open by 2030.