SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota School for the Deaf is moving to a smaller campus this fall despite record enrollment.
Demographic data shows the school serves nearly 600 students who are deaf and or have some hearing loss. The number is expected to jump to about 650 by 2021, the Argus Leader reported.
As the facility moves to a smaller one, administrators said they’re looking at potentially hiring more help and planning for growth. They also said they’re trying to smooth over any potential problems during the transition.
They are moving because nonprofit group Sioux Falls Ministry Center bought the current facility in May for $6.9 million, according to the Argus Leader.
Now, the school’s move has been criticized by the deaf community and lawmakers.
“We’re going to be challenged in terms of space,” Superintendent Marje Kaiser said. “You saw the two or three classrooms that are down there right now. We won’t have that comparable space in the new facility.”
Administrators said they can’t guarantee the new campus will be the same size as the current one, which worries Kaiser.
“Where are we going? How do we build to meet the need that we hear from parents from the deaf community?” Kaiser said. “The challenge is people who have gone to residential schools cherish that experience as part of their education. But it’s almost impossible to replicate that in today’s world.”
The move can also bring a disruption in audiology services offered to students by the campus because of the time it will take to disassemble, move and reassemble the school’s sound booth used to evaluate students, according to a presentation last week by school officials to the South Dakota Board of Regents.
School officials are expected to present a new three-year strategic plan to the Board of Regents for review in October.