SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Sioux Falls School District is looking for ways to give minority students more access to programs at its specialty schools, which are majority white.

District board members looked at each of the district’s three specialty schools on Wednesday, assessing demographics and setting a goal to promote the schools to more diverse groups. The specialty programs include education in the fine arts, Spanish or learning with the students’ parents alongside them.

“It is a challenge, for sure,” Board President Kate Parker said. “I think if you looked at other school districts, they probably have similar challenges.”

More than 30 percent of the students in Sioux Falls public schools are non-white, but they make up less than 20 percent of students in specialty schools, the Argus Leader reported .

The board hopes the demographics at those schools will better resemble the overall student population this year, when the district adds three computer science immersion schools.

All three of the schools implementing the program — Anne Sullivan, Hayward and Lowell Elementary — are Title I schools, meaning they receive additional federal funding due to high numbers of students from low-income families. The schools also have more racially diverse students than the district average.

All-City Elementary School is the least racially diverse school in the city, with 94 percent of students identifying as white.

Parker said one solution could come from making information about specialty schools more readily available. But the district will also have to look at why the lack of diversity exists in the first place, including whether it’s lack of transportation, lack of awareness or something else.

Parker said another option could be expanding space in the programs to fit more students.

“If we’re really serious about equity and access, if we really believe that non-white students have the same gifted-ness as white students … I think we have to look at expansion,” Superintendent Brian Maher said.


Information from: Argus Leader, http://www.argusleader.com