Rapid City private schools deal with long-term, steady growth

Keeping class sizes down and holding a family atmosphere drives expansions

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Catholic School System has seen growth over its 28 years of existence and is making changes to accommodate the growth.

From pre-school through 12th grade, the school system has grown from 790 students in 2014 to 870 students today. The growth keeps in line with what Rapid City is seeing as a whole.

Private schools have an advantage for enrollment by only allowing a certain number of students whereas public schools must bend with what the population growth forces on the area.

As class sizes in local public schools grow, St. Thomas More High School Principal Wayne Sullivan says, some of their growth can be attributed to parents wanting their kids in smaller classes.

“I do think the people in town are wanting more and more of that, so I think that’s why we do see growth in the high school yearly or new students yearly,” said Sullivan.

While the numbers are lower in comparison to Rapid City Area Schools, the Catholic School System also aims to keep class sizes down between 15 to 20. The maximum amount of students for a class is 25 students and 20 students for advanced placement classes.

Exceeding the maximum is something Sullivan says he’s seen maybe two or three times since he began working with the school 18 years ago.

Sullivan says the limits are in place to give students more attention from teachers but they also serve as a buffer for planning purposes.

“We have those parameters set so if we ever need to hire staff, figure out scheduling, we’ve been able to do that,” said Sullivan.

The Catholic School System began in 1991 in the basement of the old National American University building, in what is now known as the Care Campus. Building new facilities, like their current campus which was built in 1995, to keep up with the growth while still keeping the class sizes down has been a priority for both teachers and those enrolled.

“We feel that one of our best moves was when we moved our preschool through 5th grade out to Terra Sancta [in west Rapid City],” said Sullivan. “That enabled us to grow which then, we were able to keep our classes to their small sizes and add sections so I think that really helped us.”

St. Thomas More High School currently has about 260 students but the building is built for 320. Should they ever need to expand to keep the class size the same, Sullivan says an expansion would be considered.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News