Simplified: Whittier Middle School is close to turning 100 years old. It's a big milestone, but it also might be the last big milestone birthday for the building as administrators plan for its future replacement.
Why it matters
- Whittier is the oldest school building in town that's still being used as a school. It opened in 1923 as an elementary school and later was expanded to become a middle school.
- Discussions about replacing the old building have gone on for some time in the Sioux Falls School District. A historic $180 million bond passed in 2018 included funds for the district to start acquiring properties in the neighborhood to get enough land to eventually replace Whittier.
- Those acquisitions are underway, and while specific plans haven't been put into place, it's not a guarantee that Whittier Middle School will be around to celebrate its 110th birthday.
"It'll be close," said Jeff Kreiter, director of operational services for the district.
Tell me more about future plans
Whittier's fate was a point of discussion in a 2018 task force convened to look at the future of all Sioux Falls schools.
- These discussions ultimately led to the plans (and required funding) for the new Jefferson High School, Ben Reifel Middle School, and a still-to-be-constructed elementary school in northwest Sioux Falls.
When it comes to Whittier, though, the plan right now is to keep buying up houses in the neighborhood to find enough space to build a new middle school building, Kreiter said.
- After that, the 100-year-old building will likely be torn down to make a "parking lot or something," Kreiter said.
So far, since the bond passed in 2018, the district has purchased seven homes in the area between Indiana and French Avenues, and Fourth and Fifth Streets.
- For context, that's the two-block area between the current Whittier building and the school's football field.
What happens next?
The district will continue buying properties in the Whittier neighborhood in preparation for a future new building.
The bond funding purchase of these properties did not include enough money to build a replacement middle school, though, so it'll be up to the current administration to decide if and when a new building is designed and constructed.