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Huron voters to decide fate of $22M bond project

HURON (AP) -- Voters in the central South Dakota town of Huron are set next week to decide the fate of a $22 million bond project to build additions to three elementary schools as the area grapples with a steadily growing population.

The project, which needs 60 percent voter approval to pass at the polls April 9, would expand Madison, Washington and Buchanan elementary schools. Supporters say the expansions would help ease cramping in classrooms that sometimes fit as many as 29 students -- or nearly double what each classroom was designed to handle.

"The biggest reason (for the project) is that the schools have changed," said Garret Bischoff, who chairs the KIDS First committee that's behind the bond proposal. "Now there are so many other programs that weren't meant to be in the space we have here."

The money also would pay for new gyms because the current ones are too small for entire schools to attend assemblies.

"Enrollment is up 57 percent from 10 years ago and will be up 37 percent in 2017," Bischoff told the media, citing a study conducted by the Sioux Falls architectural firm Koch Hazard.

Overall population in the city grew by 6 percent between 2000 and 2010 -- from about 11,900 residents to 12,600 -- according to the U.S. Census. Huron is located about 130 miles northwest of Sioux Falls.

If voters approve the project, Buchanan Elementary would house kindergarten and first grades, Madison would become the second- and third-grade center, and Washington would house fourth and fifth graders.

Jefferson Elementary School wouldn't be affected because officials say there isn't room to expand the building.