RCAS grapples with overcrowding problem amidst growing city

RAPID CITY S.D. – The Fall Enrollment Study presented to the Rapid City School Board on Monday highlights a problem that won’t be going away anytime soon – classroom overcrowding.

In recent years, Rapid City has continued to see steady population growth, with families moving to the southern, southwestern, and eastern sides of town.

Corral Drive Elementary School on the southwest side of town is one of many schools which is filled to the brim. They have an average class size of 26.4 making it one of the highest in town.

From 2016 to 2017, the city’s population grew 2.32 percent, making the city’s population 75,488. New population numbers will be evaluated this spring.

According to Rapid City Communications Coordinator Darrell Shoemaker, new business developments have sprung up across Rapid City in recent years. He said that the growth is not expected to stop anytime soon. Shoemaker continued to say that when businesses come to town, residential development follows.

“The indicators may be more that we’re a younger, more family oriented community,” Shoemaker said. “As the school numbers go up, as we have increased growth, more numbers being hired, we have more people going out to the base for instance, those are young families.”

In the coming years, development at Ellsworth Air Force Base may bring in an influx of families in the community as well. The development of the nuclear-capable B-21 bomber is on the horizon, bringing personnel for security, staff, and other functions. This could bring more stress on the school district.

“We think there could be as many as 1,500 more military and you can add two or three dependents, and there’s always a few civilians along, so that would be a real game changer for us if we ended up with 5,000 more people here,” said Ellsworth Development Authority Chariman Patrick Burchill.

But as the future of facility expansion remains murky, many RCAS officials agree, we will have to make a choice.

“Is it time to look at some long range planning where we need to renovate or build a new school?” said Dr. Matthew Seebaum, the assistant superintendent for RCAS, “And I think we will.”

With the 2020 census on the horizon, school and city officials will have more data to work with. Hopefully, they can wait that long.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News