I didn’t think it would happen in my lifetime, and it probably won’t. But, it seems like there’s a slowly occurring, inexorable and unavoidable absorption of Fort Pierre by the big town on the other side of the river. And it’s being driven by education:
Brown said he wasn’t pushing consolidation.
“But, the number of students we have going over to Pierre continues to increase,” he said, citing a jump from 95 Stanley County students open-enrolling to Pierre schools a couple years ago. “Now it’s 205,” Brown said. “Now we’ve got 120 kids left in high school.”
To avoid the push to consolidation, “we’ve got to . . . turn this thing around,” Brown said.
Fort Pierre has nearly twice as many kids opting out to attend school across the river in Pierre than they have children attending their own high school?!? 205 opting out for Pierre, 120 left.
Wow. That’s not a good trend.
Now, in the article much of the debate is over Stanley County’s 4 day school week, versus Pierre’s 5 day. And that might be a driving factor for many of them. But a basic fact remains that the school is shedding a lot of kids for Pierre’s system.
I’d argue that there’s a reverse effect when it comes to construction in the area. Speaking from having looked when living and working there, many Pierre residents would rather build on the Ft. Pierre side of the river than the Pierre side. The city of Pierre is a bit landlocked in places, so you’re looking out in the county or across the river. I’d also note that some of the development areas on the Fort Pierre side are far more attractive than what you might find on the Pierre side.
But are you going to send you’re kids to school there? Having faced that question when house hunting, and with my wife being in education, honestly the answer was “no.” At one point when we were there, Pierre had all-day kindergarten in place, while their Ft. Pierre school board members kept going on about “how those little kids couldn’t take all that book-learning.” And now a 4-day school week?
There are some very distinct cultural differences between the two communities. Fort Pierre has prided itself as not being Pierre, and is a fairly libertarian environment versus their snooty little brother across the river with all of Pierre’s rules and regulations. People want to build homes and live there. They just have little to no interest in sending their kids to school there, whether their opposition is based on nuggets of truth or fictional opinions. Hence, a mass educational exodus.
If it keeps up, and the Stanley County school attendance numbers continue to dwindle, it’s going to be more and more unaffordable and impractical to maintain two school systems such a short distance apart. And once that happens, it’s all but done.
For decades, people have been asking why there’s two county seats, two city governments, and two school systems within a mile of each other. And most people living in Ft. Pierre work in Pierre. If the domino of the school system in that community falls, the educational barrier to the invasion from across the river will fall. And the rest may follow in short order.