ABERDEEN, S.D. – The South Dakota Board of Regents voted for unanimous approval Thursday of a collaborative project involving Northern State University and the South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired.
The Regents approved a preliminary facility statement and facility program plan for construction of a new School for the Blind and Visually Impaired. They also approved a facility program plan for NSU’s athletic and recreation fields project, and a preliminary facility statement for an on-campus regional sports complex.
Each part of this multi-tiered campaign relies on the others, and none of it is expected to require legislative funding. No construction will take place yet – the proposed site of the new SDSBVI is the current site of NSU’s Jerde Hall, which isn’t scheduled for demolition until 2018.
Replacing Aging Facility
Thursday’s approval allows SDSBVI to move forward with creating an official design for its new, $13.7 million school. Superintendent Dr. Marjorie Kaiser said faculty, staff and students are thrilled at the chance to replace the aging facility with a more modern building.
“Our current electrical infrastructure doesn’t support 21st century technology, and our classrooms and dorms are not air conditioned,” Kaiser said. “A new school will not only be more efficient, it will also allow us to create optimum learning environments for students with vision loss and add features such as stairs and elevators, which mirror real-world environments.”
Thursday’s approval also allows NSU to proceed with planning for its privately funded $5 million athletic and recreation fields project. This project will provide a new competition field for the NSU women’s soccer team and a new practice field for NSU football, located east of Jerde Hall. It will also be used as a recreation area by SDSBVI students.
Saving Tennis Courts
The athletic and recreation fields project plans have also allowed for Northern to save six of its tennis courts – the original six gifted by the C.C. Lee family. NSU will enhance the facility by adding a public restroom.
“Northern has always maintained these tennis courts and opened them up for community use free of charge, and we’re committed to continuing that,” said NSU President Dr. Timothy Downs. “We’re excited that this project will benefit our student-athletes and SDSBVI students while still providing the public access to our tennis courts.”
Thursday’s approval also allows NSU to explore the possibility of a regional sports complex, which would feature a football stadium and softball field. A building committee will be appointed as a first step toward planning for this proposed facility, which would be located at the current SDSBVI site. Work would not begin on the sports complex until SDSBVI relocates to its new school at the current site of Jerde Hall.
With all of these projects in mind – not to mention three new residence halls, the upcoming Regional Science Education Center and increasing enrollment at NSU – Northern is making plans to address potential parking issues. The university is planning to add a parking lot, potentially by fall 2018. Additional parking is possible in the future.
Along with SDSBVI students having access to Northern’s new fields, NSU faculty and staff will also continue working jointly with SDSBVI faculty and staff on the development of revised and new special education programs offered by NSU’s Millicent Atkins School of Education.
NSU-SDBSVI collaborative efforts will also include access to the new SDSBVI building by students from the transitional learning communities (TLC) program facilitated by Aberdeen Central High School. Select TLC program participants will be offered the opportunity to live in Northern’s residence halls while enhancing their learning and life skills. They will also be offered developmental opportunities on the Northern campus and in the SDSBVI facility. All of these activities will be designed to help prepare TLC students to live independently.
“This partnership with Northern benefits our students in numerous ways,” Kaiser said. “We’re thrilled not only for the chance to remain in Aberdeen, but also to enhance our education and programming.”
Community Forums Planned
Downs said this collaborative campaign is a positive for NSU, SDSBVI and the entire region. As the project moves forward, community forums will be held to keep the public informed of the project plans. Up-to-date information on NSU building projects will also be posted at on the NSU Master Plan webpage. The webpage also allows community members to submit comments and questions.
“We’re working together on a project that benefits Northern students, SDSBVI students and the region,” Downs said. “We’re happy for the support we’ve received and look forward to keeping communication going throughout the project.”
About Northern State University
Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.