Happy Friday! Megan here.

Weather check: Potential for severe storms

This weekend, I took a look at how schools in the area are growing (and, notably, how one is leveling off). You'll also meet an impressive woman using her bilingual skills to increase cancer screenings among the Hispanic population in town. Plus, catch some Super Simplified Stories and, of course, our weekly event guide!

And now, news:


Why enrollment is leveling off in Sioux Falls schools

Simplified: Growth in Sioux Falls has been a common refrain for years now, but for the Sioux Falls School District, enrollment numbers aren't showing growth so much as a plateau.

Why it matters

  • For a while there, it wasn't unheard of to see 300-400 new students each year in the district. In fact, that level of growth is what prompted a historic $180 million bond for new schools back in 2018. But now, the last of those new schools has broken ground, and it appears the district's enrollment is beginning to level off.
  • There's still more kids in classrooms this fall than last – an increase of 90 year-over-year for a total initial enrollment of just over 24,300. And, notably, both elementary and middle school enrollments are virtually flat, if not slightly down, meaning growth is really only happening at the high school level.
  • Enrollment increases in elementary school is a better predictor of growth, Director of Data Services Doug Morrison said. That's evident in neighboring districts like Harrisburg, Brandon and Tea – all of which reported higher enrollment in the younger grades. For high schoolers, it's harder to pinpoint the reasons behind the higher numbers.
"Maybe this year we just have more kids that are hanging around trying to work harder to graduate," Morrison said. "Or the timing of when they drop out has changed. I don't think it's really anything other than that."

So why aren't Sioux Falls schools growing?

Well, it's not really fair to say they aren't growing, but here's a bit more context.


Meet the woman making cancer screenings more accessible

Simplified: Erica Lessman is a cancer education and outreach coordinator at Sanford who has worked for more than a decade to help educate Sioux Falls' diverse populations about the importance of regular checkups and cancer screenings. She sat down with Sioux Falls Simplified to chat about her work.

Answers are edited for length and clarity.

What led you to your current role at Sanford?

I've always loved the health field. I started out as a nursing major and then turned to social work. I happened to study abroad in Thailand for a semester and just fell in love with working with other cultures.

  • Going into another culture where you don't know the health system, don't speak the language – it gave me a better understanding of what refugees and immigrants go through in this country.
  • I've been at the job at Sanford for about 13 years.

What are your strategies for reaching out to immigrants, refugees, and people from different cultures?

Because I'm not working with one specific population, I had to do a lot of home visits and figure out what works with different populations, different cultures. It's a lot of trial and error.

  • I was really leaning on interpreters and community leaders in those ethnic populations.

I realized I was kind of wasting my time if I wasn't trying to produce pictures and visuals.

  • I developed a flip chart on my own that goes through the different cancers that I emphasize. It clicked better, and it didn't matter what the population was.

It's also really self-education on what's going on in the world and why refugees are coming here. But it's also getting to know other cultures and what they're struggling with health-wise.

See the full interview


Super Simplified Stories

  • Avera announces new president and CEO. Jim Dover will lead the health system. Dover is longtime healthcare executive who most recently worked in Michigan at Sparrow Health. He'll take over after Bob Sutton resigned earlier this year due to a serious health issue.
  • Drop off your leaves and branches. The city's leaf and branch drop-off sites open Saturday. The two sites are located at Lyon Boulevard, near the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds, and Chambers Street, near the City’s Household Hazardous Waste Facility. Hours of operation for both sites are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and 12 noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.
  • New skatepark breaks ground. The Sioux Falls Skatepark Association and the City of Sioux Falls formally broke ground Thursday on the new Barb Iverson Skateplaza at Nelson Park. Here's a rendering of what it'll look like when it's all done.


Stuff to do: Sept. 22-28

  • Light the Night.* The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society invites you to attend the 5th annual South Dakota Light the Night event at Falls Park, Sioux Falls, SD on Saturday, Sept. 30. Celebrate, honor, and remember those touched by cancer and enjoy an evening of family-friendly activities, food trucks, a kids zone, and music along with an inspirational ceremony and a short walk with illuminated, meaningful lanterns held high. Plus, the evening ends with fireworks!​ More details here.
  • Sock the Block. It's a block party on East 12th Street this Saturday. Catch Headlights Theater, Let's Skate and some of the chillest vibes in town at The Breaks, Common Sense, Total Drag and Green Dream. Oh, and bring some socks to benefit the VA. Details here.
  • Whiskey with wild animals. Whiskey Fest is happening Friday night at the Great Plains Zoo. Sample from a selection of 70 different types of whiskey, with a portion of proceeds benefiting the Red Wolf exhibit. Details here.
  • Touch base. It's the first-ever "Let's Touch Base: Yoga and Market" on the Canaries baseball field. Take a goat yoga class and shop a number of different local vendors. Tickets here.
  • Get in some girl talk. Barre3 and Selah Space are teaming up for an event to help you better connect with your body and stop dreading your period every month. You'll learn how to embrace, celebrate, and take advantage of the brilliant way your body moves through each month. Details here.
  • Celebrate Oktoberfest. It's Oktoberfest at Remedy on Saturday with stein holding, live music, german food and, of course, beer. Festivities start at noon. Details here.

*Denotes a sponsored event post.


What I'm falling for this weekend


More recent stories

Crime isn’t going up, but it is getting more complicated
The rate of crime is relatively flat (and in some cases, decreasing) in Sioux Falls, but Police Chief Jon Thum says that doesn’t mean cops’ jobs are getting easier.
Here’s the city’s latest effort to address affordable housing needs
The Sioux Falls City Council on Tuesday approved a plan to allocate $4 million to increase the number of affordable housing units.
How you can help dozens of nonprofits with one gift
It takes as little as $5 to make a big difference in the lives of children, vulnerable adults and people in crisis.

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Thank you

Thank you to Sioux Falls Simplified sponsors, including the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, Sioux Empire United Way, the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation, Barre3 Sioux Falls, Midco, the Great Plains Zoo, the Sioux Metro Growth Alliance and Voyage Federal Credit Union. When you support them, you're also supporting Sioux Falls Simplified.