Tea Area High School expansion passes in landslide, close race plants Meyer in School Board seat
By Garrett Ammesmaki
Chad Meyer with family at Tea Titan’s basketball game. Meyers won over Duane Gors for a spot in the Tea School Board.
Results from the Tea Area School District election held on June 21 are in, showing Chad Meyer as the next school board member and a resounding approval for the Tea Area High School expansion.
The expansion of the high school received almost 85 percent of votes in favor of the $39 million bond for 25 years.
“We are extremely excited that the project passed and the community is supportive of the kids and what they need,” said Chris Esping, business manager for the Tea Area School District. “Just thrilled, actually.”
It was one of the better turnouts for an election the area has seen in recent years, Esping said.
Of the 5,938 registered voters in the area, turnout was a little over 15 percent, with 906 ballots received. Of those ballots, 769 voted yes with the expansion bond passing at just under 85 percent of the vote. There were 137 votes against.
The expansion calls for adding 25 classrooms that include rooms for enhanced science labs, art rooms, math/STEM lab and culinary lab, according to a previous article by the Tea Weekly.
The high school population for the 2021-22 school year was 582. Projections for 2022-23 is 644. The capacity for the current building is 736. Projected growth by the 2025-26 school year is 907 students.
The district historically has seen a 5 percent increase in student population each year. With increases in building permits in the district, they expect growth to be accelerated.
“(The expansion) is very needed, and we’re very thankful that the community agrees,” Esping said. “It’s a win for our students.”
The next steps include bids going out to construction companies in late Fall, Esping said. She is hoping construction will start in the Spring of 2023 and, barring any unseen obstructions, the expansion is slated for completion in the Fall of 2024.
The race between Duane Gors and Meyer for a seat on the school board was a relatively close call. While Gors received a little over 47 percent of the vote, Meyer pulled in ahead with 53 percent. There was a little over 14 percent voter turn out, with 849 total ballots cast.
Meyer wasn’t available for an interview by the time this edition went to print, but he did answer questions for a Q&A from the Tea Weekly ahead of the June 21 vote.
His main focus will be to put kids first, and emphasize a “fun and safe environment.”
“We need to ensure we have the best staff and technology to educate our kids properly for the future,” he said in the Q&A.
In response to growth within the school district, Meyer’s plan is embracing the growth so the Tea school district doesn’t “struggle to catch up.”
“… we need to ensure we stay ahead of the growth of our district and we do not fall behind,” he said. “Budgeting and spending is key to growing properly as our district and city grow.”
He and his family have been in the Tea community for six years, and just moved into their new home on the north side of Tea in the Heritage Lake addition.
Meyer works with the Tea Veterans Memorial committee, organized the first annual Teapot Days Summer Open to help raise money for the Tea Veteran’s Memorial, and is looking forward to more ways he can be active in the Tea community.
Below is the entire Q&A with Meyer. You can also find the full Q&A with both Meyer and Gors on Teaweekly.com.
How long have you lived in Tea?
We have been in the Tea community for almost 6 years, we lived on an acreage north of town for the last 5 years and just moved into our new home on the North side of Tea in the Heritage Lake addition.
Do you have kids in the Tea Area School District? If so, how many?
We have three kids in the school district, soon to be Kindergarten, Second Grade and Fourth Grade. They love their school and all the teachers.
What other roles do you have within the Tea community?
I am working with the Tea Veterans Memorial. This year I am organizing the First Annual Tea Pot Dayz Summer Upen to help raise money for the Veterans memorial. I am also looking forward to finding more ways I can be active in the Tea community in the future.
How will you respond to the growth within the school district?
Growth in a city so close to Sioux Falls is inevitable, with a growing city comes an expanding and growing school district. If we do not embrace the growth and grow at the same time we will struggle to catch up.
What sort of policies do you intend to focus on if you were to be elected?
My Main focus is putting our kids first, every child deserves a fun and safe environment to learn and grow in. We need to ensure we have the best staff and technology to educate our kids properly for the future.
What sort of environment do you think would be best for our teachers and other faculty members?
With everything going on in the world, we need to ensure that not only our kids but also our teachers and faculty have a safe and welcoming environment so that they can do their job to the best of their ability.
Are there any recent or past policies that you take issue with?
Policy D: Fiscal Management, we need to ensure that we are working to layout the best budget for each year and ensure that funds are being spent wisely for the growth of our school district and the staff and students are top priority in the spending.
What current policies do you think express your values as a board member?
Section J: Students and Section G: Personnel, by making sure we are taking care of the staff and students, we ensure that we have a strong internal system to grow. We as parents and school board members need to put them first, so they know we truly care and want the best for them.
What do you think is the most pressing issue the Tea Area School District is facing and how will you respond to it?
Growth and staying ahead of it, we need to ensure we stay ahead of the growth of our district and we do not fall behind. Budgeting and spending is key to growing properly as our district and city grow.
What are your thoughts on the school bus driver shortage? What do you think the best course of action is for the school district?
The current shortage of bus drivers impacts us all, many students rely on the bus to get to and from school each day not only in town but our rural living families too. With working parents it may be hard for the parents to get the kids to school on time or pick them up in a timely manner.
I believe we need to start looking at other avenues to fill the shortage.. Possibly look at the local universities and colleges for students that may have the time to work in the mornings and afternoons. My nephew is currently doing this in SF and said he is enjoying it as he can work his school schedule around the bus schedule.
Teacher pay has been a large topic of conversation and debate over recent years. What are your thoughts?
Teachers are one of the most important influencers in our kids’ lives after the parents and family. We rely on each teacher to help make sure our kids learn and grow properly. We need to make sure we are not losing our amazing staff to other school districts due to pay. If a teacher is going over the top and showing great strides in helping each and every student then they deserve to get a raise and this will ensure they stay within the Tea School District for years to come.