Sights Set on Future in Wessington Springs

Courtesy of Kristi Hine of the True Dakotan

A strategic plan mapping out how the Wessington Springs School District will improve communication, provide continuation of school programs and plan for the future of school facilities is underway, and the school board and administration are asking the community to engage in this important process.

The 2016 – 2020 draft plan, inserted in this week’s paper, aims to focus energy on three strategies:

  1. Improve communication at all levels internally and externally.
  2. Provide resources for continuation and enhancement of student development.
  3. Ensure best use of facilities, equipment and staff.

A group of 10-15 people per strategy will further develop the strategic plan during a series of planned meetings over the course of three months with action teams helping form specific results and action plans to successfully carry out the strategies outlined above.

“We generally are able to implement the plans in three to four years,” Lance Witte, Wessington Springs School District Superintendent said.  “This is because of community help in facing up to the strategic issues through the involvement of students, parents and community members.”

Strategy number one aims to enhance current lines of communication internally among faculty, staff and administration as well as externally, between the school, students, parents and the entire school community.

“Communication is something that can continuously be improved,” said Witte.  “Through this strategy we will explore a variety of methods utilizing new technology and traditional lines of communication to find a positive, effective communication mix for all stakeholders in the Wessington Springs School community.”

The continuation and enhancement of student development within the realms of classroom curriculum and school programs is the focus of strategy two in the Wessington Springs School District Strategic Plan.

With two of the most vibrant and robust Future Farmers of America (FFA) and Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) chapters in the region, Wessington Springs Schools has determined that attention needs to be placed on the continuation of these programs well into the future.

“There has been a lot of conversation around Charlotte Mohling and Craig Shryock who have led students to great success within the FCCLA and FFA programs for many years,” he said. “Eventually they will make retirement plans and we need to have a plan in place to keep these programs viable well into the future.”

Additional focus within this strategy will be on continuation and enhancement of curriculum including reading, math and technology programs.

With an aging yet solid high school structure, growing student enrollment and changes in the state’s school funding formula, a plan for the future of the district’s facilities, equipment and staff has been identified as the final strategy in the 2016-2020 plan.

“The high school is as structurally solid as you’re going to find, but internally, it needs some updates, specifically the electrical along with the heating and cooling system,” said Witte.

Witte said that preliminary estimates to update the 100-year old building’s heating and cooling system are upwards of $1.5 million.

Under the direction of the school board, a feasibility study is currently underway to evaluate the school district’s facilities and equipment in order provide solid numbers for different scenarios and help guide the board, administration and community plan for the future.

“The elementary school has had many recent improvements and is most likely good for another 30 years,” Witte said. “Our facilities present a very complex scenario and we are looking to the community to get as involved as possible to help us plan for the future.”

Witte added that recent legislative shifts in South Dakota school funding have added a new dynamics to capital outlay funds.

“The complexity in the state’s funding changes adds into this,” he said. “The new legislation means that money is more fluid between capital outlay fund and general fund. But the catch is that the general fund surplus needs to decrease by next year or the state will reduce our state aid.”

Witte said that action teams working on this strategy will look at information and results from the feasibility study while taking the recent budget shifts into consideration.