South Dakota School for the Deaf campus sold

The South Dakota School for the Deaf (SDSD) campus has been sold for $6.9 million.

Sioux Falls Ministry Center (SFMC), a Christian non-profit organization, bought the campus, which has 14 acres including the buildings and the football and track field.

The SDSD Outreach services, the only thing that is left under SDSD, is expected to move out within the next 4 to 6 months.

SFMC provides services for low income families and they see this the Deaf school’s campus as a great opportunity for the community.

Before SDSD was established in 1880, Deaf children in The Dakota Territory (the name of North Dakota and South Dakota before they became states) went to Iowa School for the Deaf. The Dakota Territory paid Iowa $5.00 per week for each student who was from the Dakota Territory.

In December, 1880, the Dakota Territorial School for Deaf Mutes was set up. When South Dakota became a state in 1889, the school’s name became South Dakota School for the Deaf.

The school had three different deaf superintendents. One of them was Dr. Frank Turk, who is one of the founders of the Youth Leadership Camp.

The 1960’s was the highest peak for enrollment for SDSD. The school had about 100 to 150 students. In later decades, enrollment started to dwindle. One of the main reasons for this change is the school’s shift towards sending students to mainstream programs and an increased focus on an oral/auditory approach.

In 1975, Benjamin Soukup founded the organization Communication Service for the Deaf (CSD) on the SDSD campus. CSD grew into a large organization but SDSD’s student enrollment dwindled.

In 1993, CSD and the South Dakota Association of the Deaf bought the western half of the campus.

In 2005, SDSD dormitories were closed.

In 2009, SDSD’s educational programs ended. The school made agreements with local school districts to send deaf children to either an auditory/oral or a bilingual program.

In 2011, the school closed its campus.

CSD later moved their headquarters and most of their operations to Austin, Texas, and put up their part of the campus for sale.

It was bought in 2015 by a car dealership owner who had a vision to transform the area into a historic town center, but it didn’t happen.

After this, the campus was on sale again, but it was a very complicated process that was controlled by the state’s Board of Regents, which oversees the school. Several organizations tried to make offers and the process was drawn out for several years, but now the campus is sold.

The Daily Moth reached out to the South Dakota Association of the Deaf for thoughts on this.

Teresa Nold, secretary for SDAD, said that her parents, brother, husband, and herself graduated from SDSD. She said she tried to have her son placed at SDSD, but failed three times.

She said that at the time enrollment was dwindling so the school began to not accept students. She tried to fight for her son to attend, but said that nothing was successful.

Nold said that just having the Outreach services is not enough because there needs to be options for deaf children out there to get their education through direct communication.

The Outreach services is connected to over 500 deaf children in South Dakota.

Scott Miller, who graduated from SDSD in 1987, explained that the educational class teaching ended due to former Governor Mike Rounds wanting to save 4 million dollars.

He said that the Deaf community is very disappointed and sad. He explained that this decision has affected everybody around South Dakota.

Many have expressed negative feelings on Facebook posts and word of mouth. However, Miller mentioned that many expected this to happen after many years of the Board of Regents and state governors pushing for SDSD to sell their campus.

Miller said it is important for us to fight for every school to allow ASL to be part of their educational programs.

So, the SDSD campus property no longer belongs to the Deaf community, but only in history and memory.