RCAS to reintroduce bond issue at lower price

RAPID CITY, S.D. – After delaying a $250M bond election, Rapid City Area Schools says they plan to reintroduce the proposal Monday night in a special school board meeting and this time around, the proposal comes at a lower price for taxpayers.

Through community engagement sessions and public polling done by Elevate Rapid City, RCAS Superintendent Dr. Lori Simon says the new six-year plan comes in at $189.5M.

To chop the price by roughly $60 million, Simon says there are three main differences from the original proposal.

First, West Middle School is no longer slated for tear down and rebuild however, South Middle School is still planned for a complete overhaul. The cost for just one school is $44.2 million.

“That [decision] really boiled down to, at the end of the day, of the two facilities, which had the most urgent needs and that was South Middle School,” said Simon.

The second change to the facilities plan calls for Rapid City High School to be converted into an elementary school. The building was originally planned for renovations to reconfigure the area for different programming.

“We’ve already begun, the discussions, active discussions on what to do with the Rapid City High School program and we really want to be very strategic about that to enhance their programming,” said Simon.

The discussions, Simon says, are very preliminary and depend on potential partnerships in the area aimed at enhancing the high school’s program. This piece to the puzzle is one that will be further discussed over the next year before final plans can be formed.

A third change revises certain renovations and upgrades at Stevens High School and district-wide. The district still plans pathways upgrades, safety and security upgrades, and other necessary projects but is reducing the overall number of projects from $30M to $12.5M.

“Stevens still retains the fine arts improvements and enhancements, student counseling services centers, and some other really important upgrades related to pathways,” said Simon.

The new $189.5M pricetag reduces the burden on a taxpayer from $1 per $1000 valuation to $0.85 per $1000 valuation, for 25 years.

If approved by the school board Monday night, Simon says they plan to have more community engagement sessions, presentations, and discussions. She says the district is working to put together dates to make available public tours before an election.

The proposed bond would be scheduled for February 25, if approved Monday night.

“My focus is on the next four months,” said Simon. “Quite frankly, I want to get out there and engage with our community as much as I can to share the factual info and wee what questions people have and really stay focused on that.”

What remains unchanged from the original proposal is the long term school closure list. Canyon Lake, Robbinsdale, Wilson, and Horace Mann are still slated to close.

Three elementary schools are planned to be built for $29.7M – Southwest or West area, Parkview or Southeast area, and at Vickie Powers Park.

Renovations planned at Pinedale, Meadowbrook, Knollwood, and Black Hawk would continue for a slightly lower price tag.

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