Thomas Jefferson opens doors to new ways to learn

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — There are only 25 months until Sioux Falls will see its first new high school building in decades.

At a school board retreat on Monday, superintendent Brian Maher presented the plans to hire a principal at both Thomas Jefferson High School and Ben Reifel Middle School.

The district will begin the hiring process in January of 2020 for the high school. The principal will hire an activities director and lead clerical. Then, by summer, the three, along with the district administration, will begin what Maher called a “cumbersome robust process to staff Jefferson High School.”

They will begin between February and March the process of hiring the middle school principal.

Teresa Boysen, assistant superintendent of academic achievement, also presented how the design of the new school will provide new opportunities.

“It’s been 29 years since we’ve opened a high school,” Boysen said. “Many things have changed.”

The overall floor plan of the new high school is made up of five learning suites with open access. Boysen explain these allow for a more collaborative learning environment.

A big shift in school designs is for the library. It’s now called the media center and doesn’t look like the traditional school library. It will feature a green screen, incubator room, more collaborative space and even a coffee bar.

A rendering of the media center at Jefferson High School

“The media center is our modern-day library. That’s the hub of the school,” Boysen said.

A rendering of learning stairs at Jefferson High School

Other areas such as learning stairs and the entire campus on which the building sits on will require discussions as well.

Another opportunity the district is looking at is blended learning. This is a way for students to take a course that is mixed between online learning and traditional learning.

As Boysen explained, a class could meet in-person on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and not meet on Tuesday/Thursday.

On those days students could work in a common space of the school, or if they’re struggling to be required to stay with the teacher and get more individual attention.

The district is also looking at university courses on the Jefferson campus and possibly a different bell schedule to support some of these different learning opportunities.

They’re also going to work to train the staff in the school to use the support of the new design and facilities.