Rapid City Area Schools is preparing to hold an official groundbreaking for the new South Middle School on March 31.
Kumar Veluswamy, director of facilities services for RCAS, said fencing has been placed around the future construction site behind the existing building and community center.
"If you've driven around the school, you've probably noticed some temporary construction fencing going up on the project... Things are moving and the temporary fencing is probably 70% up and we'll be moving dirt soon," Veluswamy said Tuesday evening at a Board of Education meeting.
To build the replacement building, the school district is planning on using nearly $47.8 million in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, up to $5 million from the district's capital outlay fund, and $15 million in financing from an outside firm.
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Plans call for the new South Middle School to be 135,000 square feet with a capacity of 800 students. The new building will be located north of the existing school on the same site and will connect to the existing community center. Construction will commence while the current school is still in use. Once the new building is complete, students and staff will move to the facility and the old building will be demolished.
The new building will also have the ability to expand student capacity in the future by adding a third level to the classroom wings if needed.
South Middle School was built in 1959 and like other school buildings its age, it has been afflicted with a combination of accessibility and infrastructure issues. Uneven flooring, collapsing foundations and multiple flights of stairs in hallways have made the building a district priority for replacement.
Additional signs of the foundation's settling can be seen in the school's central courtyard, where water pools during heavy rainfall. South's water and sewer lines are embedded in its concrete foundation, making them expensive to repair. Light fixtures are similarly embedded in the ceiling structures and would likely be difficult to replace without exposing underlying asbestos.
The original South Middle School is one of eight schools in the school district that is not fully air conditioned.
In September 2019, teachers at South Middle School resorted to turning off the lights, cracking open windows and bringing in fans to keep the classrooms from heating up any more.
Rebuilding South Middle School was a part of a $189 million school bond proposal to deal with many facility issues in the district that failed in 2020. Although 56% of voters supported the bond issue, it failed to garner the required 60% threshold.
Because of the ongoing issues at the building, the Board of Education unanimously approved Feb. 15 to move forward with the financing to build the replacement school.
Contact Nathan Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org.