Happy Wednesday! Megan here.

It's officially summer. Does that mean I have to stop complaining about 90+ degree temperatures? (Just kidding, I'm a South Dakotan. I'll complain no matter what the weather is.)

This week, you'll get a look at how tutors are seeing pandemic learning loss, on-demand busing and the current drought. I've also got a look at what makes the new Jefferson High School unique.  

Also, if you've been enjoying this newsletter, consider supporting Sioux Falls Simplified in one of three ways:

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And now, news:

COMMUNITY

It's super dry. What that means for the river and for you.

Simplified: It's been the driest June on record for much of the state, according to the National Weather Service, and federal data shows the Big Sioux River is flowing at a far lower-than-average rate.

Tell me more: The Big Sioux was flowing at a rate of about 27 cubic feet per second in Sioux Falls as of noon Tuesday.

That's significantly below the average for this time of year, which is 673 cubic feet per second, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

Why it matters: Conserving water is always a good idea, said Darin Freese, water program coordinator with the City of Sioux Falls.

  • But it's especially important now to preserve water so the city doesn't have to further tighten water restrictions.
  • Sioux Falls hasn't had to tighten restrictions to once-per-week watering since 2012, but it could happen again, as conditions this year are similar, Freese said.
  • Lower water discharge rates (i.e. less water in the river) also mean there's a greater chance for pollutants in the water to become concentrated.
"There is potential for higher E. coli concentrations and potential toxins from algal blooms and things like that," said John McMaine, a water management engineer and assistant professor at South Dakota State University.

Wait, weren't we just flooding, like, not that long ago? Yes. Learn more about that here, along with tips to conserve water.


EDUCATION

How summer tutors are seeing – and helping – pandemic learning loss

Simplified: Sioux Falls area tutors say kids are coming back at a normal or above-normal rate, and despite in-person school for most kids all year, they’re seeing learning loss due to the pandemic.

Why it matters: Last summer, tutoring places like Sylvan Learning and Mathnasium saw a sharp decline in students, with some going to online-only tutoring and others choosing to just stay home amid pandemic concerns.

  • Now, kids are back. And tutors are doing what they can – including expanding hours – to help them catch up.
  • Even though Sioux Falls schools stayed mostly open, many students still missed school – sometimes for weeks at a time – because they either contracted or were exposed to COVID-19, said Michelle McGuckin, one of the owners of Sylvan.
  • McGuckin has also noticed the pandemic caused parents to pay closer attention to their kids’ learning.
“They’re more willing to talk about things ... it’s an easier conversation to have than maybe in prior years,” McGuckin said.

Learn more about what tutors are doing differently this year and what parents should know.


Stuff to watch:

  • Steel District. The Sioux Falls Parks Board recommended approval for six easements that would allow the Steel District to build out roads around the proposed downtown development. This includes a road connecting Fourth Street from Phillips Avenue (just north of the Levitt space). These easements move now to City Council for approval.
  • Orchestra. Augustana University's School of Music has a new partner with the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra. That means shared use of Augie facilities and equipment, as well as symphony musicians becoming an "integral" part of the faculty, per a release from the university.
  • Raven Industries. The Sioux Falls-based company announced earlier this week it is being acquired for $2.1 billion by a London-based agricultural equipment maker. It'll be worth watching what this means for the non-ag branches of Raven.
  • City money. Sioux Falls City Councilors continue to see options for spending extra cash. This week they heard asks from Avera for help with a behavioral health expansion and a pitch from the Tennis Association to build 12 tennis courts at Tomar Park.

SIMPLIFIED PRESENTS

Why you should pay more attention to your womb

This is a paid piece from Selah Space.

Simplified: A new group at Selah Space aims to honor everything that comes from being a woman. That means getting in touch with your womb.

Why it matters: There is a deep and direct connection between your womb and your soul, Selah Space Owner Jada Dobesh says.

  • Many women who struggle with infertility, endometriosis or other womb-related medical issues find themselves in isolation. Dobesh hopes to combat that isolation with her womb healers group.
  • She also incorporates reiki as a way of healing emotional trauma that may be associated with your womb.
"From mother wounds to women's reproductive health we will be intentionally creating space with two of Selah Space's most important values: community and spiritual connection," Dobesh said.

Learn more about the womb healers group and how to join here.


CITY

What the city learned testing on-demand busing

Simplified: Sioux Falls is looking for a way to more efficiently run public transit. Early results from a pilot project for on-demand busing show the answer may be in a mix of fixed routes and on-demand services.

Tell me more: A city innovation team came up with this pilot project to try taking the Sioux Area Metro to an on-demand only service model on Saturdays.

Why it matters: Budget projections show the transit fund is on track to go in the red if busing continues on the existing course. That's largely because of the cost to replace the buses as needed.

  • Early results show there's still a need for the reliability of fixed bus routes, but Senior Planner Sam Trebilcock said on-demand busing could offer flexibility for folks in "low-density transit areas."
  • On-demand busing could also mean the city can buy smaller vehicles instead of replacing the more-expensive city buses.
"We're looking to try to find ways how to more efficiently run transit," Trebilcock said.

What happens next?

As Councilor Pat Starr noted in Tuesday's informational meeting, we still don't know the impact on-demand busing would have on weekdays and on folks who rely on buses to get to work.

The pilot project will continue into 2022 with some testing on week nights, Trebilcock said.


EDUCATION

Jefferson High School is built. Now, here's what makes it unique.

Simplified: Sioux Falls' newest high school is only a couple months away from opening to students, and as construction wraps up, local reporters got a look at what makes the new building unique.

Why it matters: This building is a long-time coming. The Sioux Falls School District has been talking seriously about the need for a fourth major high school since 2017.

  • It's also part of a $190 million bond voters passed by a considerable margin in 2018.
  • Jefferson Principal Dan Conrad – formerly at Washington High School – said the new building is less traditional and more focused on creating room for students and teachers to collaborate.
"It's just that flexibility to meet the learning needs of kids throughout the school," Conrad said.

Here's a look at five things that make Jefferson different from the other three public high schools, from lighting to lockers.


THIS AND THAT

What I'm falling for this week:


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Thank you

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