Big changes could be in store for the Rapid City school district under a new long-range plan that calls for some schools to close and also new ones to be built.
If followed completely, the plan released Monday could cost one third of a billion dollars over a decade.
But district officials cautioned immediately that the facilities improvement report commissioned by the Rapid City School Board that includes several possible school closures and an estimated $333 million cost over 10 years is only conceptual and not a firm blueprint for the future.
“These are ideas,” School Board President Jim Hansen stressed during Monday night’s meeting. “The board will have the opportunity to decide what parts if any to follow through on.”
In a presentation before the School Board, representatives from national educational consultant MGT of America unveiled their recommendations for how to improve the district’s use of existing elementary, middle, and high school buildings, some of which MGT deemed beyond repair.
Scoring buildings based on their size, condition, capacity, projected growth of the student body and other factors, the MGT report sets forth two options each for the district’s elementary and middle schools, while urging facility upgrades at Stevens High School.
“It’s a road map,” said MGT vice president Ed Humble. “It says ‘Here’s where we are today. Here’s where we want to be 10 years from now.’”
One of the elementary school options calls for the closure of five elementary schools while the other option recommends shuttering four. The two options for middle school improvements each recommend replacing South and West middle schools with larger buildings on their existing sites.
“If we closed schools, the others would increase in capacity, so some staff would go to those schools,” said district spokeswoman Katy Urban, adding that the MGT report is just a starting point for determining the future of the district’s schools.
Speaking to the School Board on Monday evening, Humble said, “In terms of condition, we’ve got some schools we need to deal with.”
Each of the two elementary school options outlined by MGT recommend the closure of Wilson, Robbinsdale, Canyon Lake, and South Canyon elementary schools. The second option also recommends shutting down Horace Mann elementary school.
Right now, there are 15 elementary schools in the district. MGT’s first and recommended option would reduce that number to 13.
In addition to the four closures, the first option advocates replacing Meadowbrook, Horace Mann, and South Park with new, higher-capacity facilities capable of holding 600 students each in the locations of of the existing buildings.
“Schools sometimes get to a point,” Humble said, “where you just have to replace them.”
Option one also recommends the construction of two new 600-student capacity elementary schools, one on the north side and the other on the west side. The west side school would go where West Middle School sits now.
The plan calls for additions at Black Hawk, Corral Drive, and Grandview, which MGT identified as a site of potential renovation, along with Knollwood as well.
In total, option one for elementary schools would cost the district an estimated $161.3 million, according to MGT.
The second option is almost identical to option one, except that instead of replacing Horace Mann, it calls for closure of the school, while recommending the replacement of Corral Drive with a 650-student capacity building, and increasing all the other replacement buildings to that capacity level as well.
Option two would reduce the number of elementary schools to 12 and cost an estimated $178.2 million.
“It’s a little bit bigger because you’re doing bigger schools,” Humble said.
In each option, MGT recommends boundary adjustments at General Beadle, Knollwood, and Grandview to modulate student capacity at those schools.
Middle and high schools
MGT’s first option for middle schools includes replacing both South and West middle schools with higher capacity buildings to hold 750 students. Option one also sets North Middle School up for renovations, and boundary adjustments at both Southwest and West middle schools.
Humble said option one, which is MGT’s suggested route, is estimated to cost $97.7 million.
Option two would also replace South, but up the capacity to 950, while closing West middle school. The second option would similarly increase the student capacities of North and Southwest middle schools to 950 students each. Renovations at North are also included.
The total cost of option two for the district’s middle schools is estimated at $86.3 million.
Stevens High School scored well under MGT’s methodology, but had the lowest educational suitability marking compared to Central and Rapid City high schools. The total cost for upgrading Stevens is estimated at $16.1 million.
If the district pursues every suggested alternative outlined by MGT, the cost when adjusted for inflation and interest costs over 10 years comes to $333 million.
“The overall price tag on both of these plans is obviously large,” Urban said. “We want to stress that this is not a financial plan, but a facilities plan. It's a comprehensive study with a lot of valuable information. It's a starting place but it is not the final plan by any means."
Assistant Superintendent Dave Janak said he expects that five planned town hall meetings on the plan will be held through March.
The School Board will discuss the MGT report in greater detail during a study session on Feb. 18.