Tea Area School District ‘bursting at the seams’

TEA, S.D. (AP) — Elementary schools in the Tea Area School District are “bursting at the seams” 16 years after the district was formed, according to the district superintendent.

The district will open a third elementary school, expand another and has plans for a fourth, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported.

The district recently decided to spend $6 million to expand Frontier Elementary by 12 classrooms, a gymnasium and a band hall for this fall, said Superintendent Jennifer Lowery.

“We’re bursting at the seams with our elementary schools,” Lowery said. “But we’re doing the best we can.”

The district will also open its newest campus, Venture Elementary, this fall with classrooms, a three-court gymnasium, library, commons area, collaborative spaces, a community tornado shelter and more. The school was subsidized by a $15.4 million bond package approved by voters in summer 2017.

Wayne Larsen, a Tea Area School District official, said when Tea residents chose to curb the trend of school district mergers in 2003, many thought the idea of creating a new school district wouldn’t succeed.

The school district didn’t have a school board. It had a small property foundation and functioned out of temporary buildings, Larson said.

There were significant concerns about whether children would actually attend the schools and whether coordinators had the funding required to build actual campuses.

The district has consistently built new schools since about 2015 when the district constructed a $5.2 million elementary school within the Sioux Falls area for the first time. That campus was part of $9.5 million bond approved by voters in 2014.

The growth is a blessing, Lowery said. As a mother of three, she’s just happy she gets to supervise how Tea adjusts to the progress on a large scale, she said.

“It’s a great opportunity to run bond issues, have community support and answer questions, but I also get to be a mom,” Lowery said. “There’s nothing more important than knowing what you’re creating is good enough for your kids. I have three, and then I have 2,000. If it’s not good enough for my three, it’s not good enough for my 2,000.”