Simplified: City councilors are asking the parks department to find new options for community members looking to host events and find weekend recreation as the school district takes over responsibility of Sioux Falls’ five community centers.

Why it matters

  • The latest changes to a 25-year-old agreement between the city and the school district shifts primary oversight of community centers from the city to the schools. That means city-run open recreation programs will cease, and the community will also no longer have the option to rent out (at no charge) meeting spaces for events, birthday parties and more.
  • Between January and April this year, more than 8,000 people used the community centers on weekends for open recreation, and another 8,500 used meeting room spaces.*
  • Councilors Rich Merkouris and Sarah Cole brought a resolution Tuesday urging the city parks department to find other options for the public when it comes to hosting indoor events. And Cole said it’s also adding urgency to ongoing conversations about building an indoor recreation center in town.
"That's even more reason why we need to push that to the top of the agenda," Cole said.

*That number also includes Sioux Falls School District events using the community center event spaces.

What’s changing with community centers?

The agreement approved Tuesday night was the final step in a months-long effort to change how after-school programs run in the Sioux Falls school district.

  • The district is shifting to what’s called a “community learning center” (CLC) model, which will operate at all Sioux Falls elementary schools starting this fall. These centers act as a conduit to connect the community with resources – primarily after-school care.
  • For the five schools adjacent to community centers, the CLCs will now run in those centers, and the district will take over programming those facilities.

That means no more open recreation, which on the weekdays will be replaced with programming for elementary school students through the CLC.

  • But on the weekends there’s no longer staffing provided to host open recreation or for those centers to offer space for events.

The city acknowledges the gaps this new CLC model creates, including the lack of open recreation, losing those meeting spaces and losing the community centers as a place for middle schoolers to go after school.

What happens next?

City councilors unanimously passed the resolution brought by Merkouris and Cole, so now it’ll be up to the parks department to go and assess what other options might be out there for hosting events.

"I want to encourage the parks department to bring us options," Merkouris said. "Go talk to the YMCA. Go talk to Great Life. Go talk to the school district and what options can they bring us. Bring us some options."

Councilors also passed the resolution approving the agreement between the city and the district, an agreement to contribute $2 million to help with the transition and an agreement to gift certain furniture and other assets in the community centers to the district.