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School district regrouping after election loss
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School district regrouping after election loss

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After the $189.5 million bond issue fell four percentage points short of the 60 percent plus one vote needed to win the special election, several members of the school board are looking ahead to the June election to put the bond issue back on the ballot.

With a voter turnout of 23 percent, likely affected by Monday's winter storm, there were 9,287 yes votes and 7,211 no votes.

At a watch party Tuesday night, Lori Simon, Rapid City Area Schools (RCAS) superintendent, said she was hopeful for the future.

“I can tell you I’m going to regroup,” Simon said. “I’m going to let myself grieve here for a few days and I’m going to talk with my team, I’m going to talk with our board, I’m going to talk with our community and we’re going to figure out how we’re going to move forward.”

Christine Stephenson, a school board member for Area 5, said she has an appetite to "try again right away."

"The board needs to get together and take its temperature and talk to the say yes committee," she said. "There’s no time to lose. The results were disappointing, but it doesn’t change the need. We need to figure out how to change it to get to that 60 percent."

Stephenson said she hopes that opponents bring forth ideas for the second draft of the bond issue.

"They all say that there is a need. They all say that they could have had a better plan, and I’m open to see what their plan is," she said. 

Katy Urban, public information manager for RCAS, said Wednesday it’s premature to say at this point whether the Vote Yes group would work to get the issue on the June ballot, but she would know more within two weeks.

“It’s an important issue in our community, and one we’re going to continue to discuss,” Urban said. “While it’s disappointing, we have more work to do and we’ll get right back on it. We’re going to start right away.”

Val Simpson, co-chair for the Vote Yes group, said at a watch party Tuesday that while only 23% of voters participated in this special election, it was still a “far greater turnout” than they anticipated.

“Due to a lot of effort out there to get voters to the voting place and get them to vote early, I think we can be proud of what we have done,” Simpson said. “I’m disappointed, of course, but I know there will be great effort to continue this conversation in this community, and we will come back and we will win. We will find out how long that takes, but we are committed to make this happen.”

Urban said she and others who supported the Vote Yes movement saw a great deal of misinformation about their campaign, as well as drawbacks that may have prevented their success. An issue with the bond’s language was that Rapid City High School’s location was not yet determined.

“We have some pretty good ideas of what some of the issues were based on what we’ve seen in the media and social media,” she said. “We’ll be evaluating some of the issues with the bond if we decide to bring it back. We know that the high school not having a location was an issue for people.”

One piece of misinformation that Urban is working to fight is the idea that the bond is a “blank check,” she said, as well as how the bond is structured and the future of Rapid City High School.

“I think that there were some opposition groups that put out information that was not factual or some half-truths,” she said. “I think it's certainly easy to put out misinformation and it’s not easy to fight that misinformation … it most certainly was not (a blank check).”

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