SIOUX FALLS | The South Dakota School for the Deaf campus in Sioux Falls will begin leasing the lower level of its main building to Lutheran Social Services for its Refugee and Immigration Center in the spring.

The state Board of Regents recently signed a five-year lease that will bring in about $110,000 annually, the Argus Leader newspaper reported (http://argusne.ws/JaxGqT ).

Lutheran Social Services President and CEO Betty Oldenkamp said she been looking for two years for a new site to replace the existing center, which has run out of space as the local refugee and immigrant population continues to grow.

"We're going to see how it works," Oldenkamp said. "It's a great location and the space has been well cared for. We just don't know yet if it's a long-term option."

Lutheran Social Services will relocate all of its refugee and immigrant services to the new location, including English language classes, case management, orientation for people new to the country, citizenship work and assistance with documents. About 40 staff members will relocate to the School for the Deaf site as well, Oldenkamp said.

School for the Deaf Superintendent Marje Kaiser said bringing refugee services onto the Sioux Falls campus is a good fit because national data suggest that some immigrant populations have a slightly higher incidence of hearing disabilities.

"If they have any children they're working with who have hearing loss, we hope this will give us a better opportunity to serve them," Kaiser said. "Sometimes it is very difficult to get services to those families. There can be language barriers. Sometimes they don't understand how things work and are leery of working with a state government entity. We hope this arrangement helps smooth the way and helps kids get services."

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