STURGIS — The Meade School District is preparing for anticipated future growth in the Piedmont and Summerset areas.
At its board meeting today, the Meade School Board will discuss the purchase of eight acres of land adjacent Stagebarn Middle School from Dr. George Jenter at a cost of about $1 million — that’s about $125,000 an acre.
The board voted at its August meeting to have school attorney Eric Nies develop a purchase agreement which the board will review and discuss at the Monday meeting. The board likely will not take action on approving the purchase agreement until its November meeting.
Meade School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard said the district has no immediate plans for the land.
“We have absolutely no building plans at this point in time. It’s not on our five-year plan. It’s not even on our 10-year plan. It truly is designed to give future boards an opportunity for expansion if they need it,” Kirkegaard said.
Even though the land costs more than the district would like to spend, it is the best land for the district because of its proximity to existing infrastructure, Kirkegaard said.
If past trends continue, the Meade School District may need the land for expansion sooner than later.
Since the 2010 U.S. Census, Meade County’s population has increased by 17.4% going from 25,434 to 29,852. Meade County was second only to Lincoln County in South Dakota for growth over that 10-year period. Lincoln County exploded with a 45.4% increase in population from 44,828 in 2010 to 65,161 in 2020.
“We knew the demographics after having a study done 10 years ago. That was our anticipated growth area for the district, and that truly has materialized,” Kirkegaard said.
Meade County seems poised for even more growth as it was announced in June that Ellsworth Air Force Base will be the home of the next-generation nuclear bomber, the B-21 Raider.
The Meade School District’s western boundaries extend from Sturgis south along Interstate 90 to just north of Black Hawk.
Housing lots in southern Meade County are a hot commodity. Bill Rich, longtime Meade County Deputy Director of Planning, told Meade County commissioners this spring that home lots along the Interstate 90 corridor sell out as fast as developers get them on the market.
More homes often translates into more students in Meade School District classrooms. Kirkegaard said they key is whether the new developments bring in families with students or they are developments that bring in retirees.
“We know there is going to be change and we have to be ready,” said Brett Burditt, Meade School District Business Manager.
Architecture Incorporated was retained by the Meade School District in 2016 to design the new Stagebarn Middle School and at that time they did a master plan of the site for the district. Although Kirkegaard said the district has no immediate plans for the additional eight acres of land at Stagebarn, the master plan allowed for a future high school at the site that could accommodate 600 students.
If the Meade School District were to purchase the land, the district would have a total of 42 acres at that campus.
When the district initially purchased the land around the former elementary school along Sturgis Road in southwest Meade County to build the Stagebarn Middle School they did so because they were full at Piedmont and Sturgis Williams Middle School was reaching capacity.
“We built Stagebarn because it was the best move to allow for growth within the district in existing buildings,” Burditt said.
Because Sturgis Williams Middle School was landlocked in the city of Sturgis, there was nowhere for the district to expand to accommodate more students.
The new school, which was built on land between Sturgis Road and Interstate 90, facing Sturgis Road, about a half-mile north of Stagebarn Canyon Road at Exit 48, was designed to allow for future expansion.
The contract stated that the food service, media center, gymnasium, music, and industrial technology rooms would be designed to be shared with a future high school that could be located on the property.
“When we put the middle school down there, we knew there was going to be continued growth whether that means a high school or something else. We had to make sure we built that facility that would allow for that growth,” Burditt said.
If the district does not buy the eight acres being offered by Jenter, it limits what the district’s future is on the Stagebarn Middle School site, Burditt said.
“With these eight acres, we will provide adequate space on both sides of our existing infrastructure for somebody to do something there down the road,” he said.
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