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Work nearly complete on $1 million Plankinton school expansion

PLANKINTON -- A $1 million school expansion project in Plankinton is expected to be complete in the coming weeks, solving what school officials say are inconvenient space issues.

Work is nearly completed on a $1 million addition to the Plankinton school. Construction is expected to be completed by mid-November. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)
Work is nearly completed on a $1 million addition to the Plankinton school. Construction is expected to be completed by mid-November. (Caitlynn Peetz/Republic)

PLANKINTON - A $1 million school expansion project in Plankinton is expected to be complete in the coming weeks, solving what school officials say are inconvenient space issues.

The 6,626-square foot addition includes three large classrooms and four resource rooms, as well as boy's and girl's restrooms, totaling slightly more than $1 million, funded through capital outlay certificates, according to Plankinton Superintendent Steve Randall.

Construction began on the southeast side of the building in June and is expected to be completed by mid-October.

The project comes as a result of growing class sizes in recent years, causing existing classes to cram into a tighter area than school officials felt comfortable with.

"There were a few that questioned some things about the project right away, but after some public meetings, I think most of that was cleared up," Randall said. "It came down to the fact it wasn't a matter of want, it was a matter of need."

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When current high school classes were in the elementary - about five years ago - Randall said school officials became aware that the building wouldn't be able to effectively house the students once they reached high school. That's when discussion about a possible building project began.

The spike in enrollment has since remained steady, with larger classes of about 30 students each, and total enrollment for the 2016-2017 school year for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade is 294 students.

Randall said he believes more people who grew up in Plankinton have begun returning to town with families, helping to boost enrollment. Also, Plankinton, located about 20 miles west of Mitchell, is a prime spot for employment and entertainment opportunities, while still retaining a small-town feel, Randall said.

"Right now, things are going well, but just like with anything else, we're very volatile and it could change that quickly and we could start losing kids," Randall said. "But that's the same as any community in South Dakota. If farms weren't to make it or some of the industries failed, things could change just like that."

But the unpredictability didn't hamper the district's vision for the future.

Randall said the district is focused on being progressive and its projected enrollment showed the number of students was likely to remain steady for the next five years, leading the school board to accept and progress with the project.

With the walls up, paint applied and electricity wired, the main facets of the project that remain include waiting for heating units to be delivered from Texas and the installation of a sidewalk.

But there was one hiccup encountered during the construction process. By the time school was slated to start Aug. 22, construction still hindered some teachers' ability to get to their classrooms. At that time, water samples had yet to be returned from the state deeming the school's supply safe to drink. So school began two days late, which Randall said was a "minor" issue and didn't bother the students much, if at all.

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With construction nearly complete and what was once merely a vision for Plankinton now a reality, Business Manager Joan Swanson said students, staff and community members are excited to move into the addition - the first since the school was built in 2003, following a propane explosion destroyed the former building on Nov. 17, 2000.

"We dreamed about it before, but we didn't really take it too seriously. We just thought it wouldn't ever happen," Swanson said. "It's so great for our school and we can't wait to start using it."

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