Students tour new school for blind, which should be finished in November

Reality started to sink in this week as students and staff got a look at how construction was progressing on the new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Several students and teachers toured the facility Monday afternoon to check out the progress on the building slated for completion by Thanksgiving.

Students at the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired will have longer school days and a longer holiday break to allow for the move. Principal Jodi Carlsgaard said 15 minutes will be added to classroom time each day. Then, she said, when students are dismissed for Thanksgiving in November, they won’t return until Jan. 13. That’s to allow teachers and staff time to pack their classrooms and get items moved to the new building, which is just a couple blocks away.

The current school for the blind, at 423 17th Ave. S.E., is about 60 years old. The new school is under construction on South State Street north of May Overby Elementary School. That’s the lot where Jerde Hall was previously.

The new school has been under construction since fall 2018. The curiosity was evident during the tour as students asked about their surroundings and got a sense of the space for the classrooms on the second floor and dorm rooms on the first floor.

Those spaces are just starting to come together with metal studs in places where fully formed walls will be in a few months.

Faculty accompanied students who had canes in hand and were tapping the ground to help navigate the space and avoid obstacles.

“I can’t believe how fast they’re going,” Carlsgaard said in a phone interview Tuesday. “Some of the spaces are a little smaller than anticipated, but it’s coming along really well.”

Journey Construction is the lead contractor for the project. The tour was led by Project Engineer Nick Bares who led students and staff around the first and second floors before students went outside to explore the practice field on the east side of the school. Northern State University Assistant Athletic Director Zach Flakus said the school will have a private entrance to the field and will just need to coordinate use of the field with the university.

“We’re all really excited and looking forward to it,” Carlsgaard said. “After our tour it really made it real.”

Once everything has been moved to the new school, she said, plans will be made to demolish the existing school for the blind. Eventually, that land will be home to a football stadium and softball field for Northern.

The new school is expected to cost roughly $14.2 million. Construction of the sports complex is expected to cost $26 million, with an overall cost of $33 million. Almost all of the money for the projects is being raised privately.

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- Elisa Sand - Aberdeen news, American News