Is Fort Pierre being slowly absorbed by all those people across the river? If so, they can look to the schools.

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.

Read it here.

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.

8 thoughts on “Is Fort Pierre being slowly absorbed by all those people across the river? If so, they can look to the schools.”

  1. PP – Certainly your general point is valid. But I think the 205 number is K-12 and the 120 number is 9-12. So it’s not as if 60% of the kids are going across to Pierre.

  2. Pat, as I’m sure you know, in the early 1970’s, it was Stanley County which led the effort for what if I remember was the superimposition of schools (or something like that) which allowed Stanley County school district to absorb schools and property tax base west of Ft. Pierre. This was designed in part/motivated to insure there was a high school in Ft. Pierre.

    However, within the decade when I graduated, before open enrollment, nearly all the “Hayes/Haakon County ranch families were driving right by Stanley County High School on their way to Riggs (either rented a house in Pierre or just paid the tuition). Stanley County dismissed it as “rich ranch families with no ties to Ft. Pierre.”

    In ten years, Stanley County High School will not exist. It will probably just have an elementary and maybe a middle school/Jr. High.

  3. Troy may be right. It makes no sense to have all the extra adminstrators. An elementary and middle may be just fine, but a high school isn’t necessary. And the 4 day week is quite a joke. But after I read the link you postedt, I was most shocked by the comments of Ms. Titze who played the fear monger role perhaps the best — referring to taxes going up if the schools merged, ‘more suicides in Pierre’, and how great the 4 day week was because it will prepare the kids for a federal government job. Wow — has she lost her mind or has it always been this way?

  4. We were one of those Haakon county families that moved to Pierre in the late 80’s to go to school. My older brother and sister “boarded out” for a couple years, but the 150 mile round trip for band concerts and wrestling matches was too tough when the roads got bad in the winter/spring, so my folks bought a house in Pierre for us to go to school.

    My cousins from the Hayes area went to Ft. Pierre, as did many of our neighbors. I think I remember my folks’ decision to go to Pierre was along the lines of more diverse opportunities for us academically. Plus, my dad and his dad both graduated from Pierre. (They probably went to school there because my great-grandmother lived in Pierre, so they had a place to live.)

    Looking back, while Pierre was a great fit for me, my little sister wished (I think) that she went to Ft. Pierre- she had lots of friends there and, I think, could relate to a more ranch-centric environment.

    I work in education now, and I think that Stanley County has strong, quality administrators, especially at the Elementary School. I’m not sure what the four-day week offers them, but I have confidence that the students in that district are receiving a quality education.

  5. It would be economical, financially efficient and better for the kids if there was only 1 high school and middle school (Pierre) and a k-5 grade school in Ft. Pierre. Therefore, Stanley County and Pierre would consolidate schools; however, there would still be an elementary school in Ft. Pierre while the Pierre High School would absorb the Stanley County High School kids and the Pierre Middle School the 6th-8th grade kids of Stanley County. I would be interested to see what the $$ savings would be (administrative, building costs, operating costs). You would no longer need two separate School Superintendent’s, so that is $100,000 a year right there in savings. The education system in South Dakota is not a funding problem, but a lack of willingness to consolidate when the operating efficiency of the school district is so low.

    Start the petition process, please!!!

  6. Use some of the cost savings to convert the Stanley Co. High School into a Technical School and keep more kids in the community.

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