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Rapid City Area Schools

It will be up to voters to decide whether Rapid City Area Schools will receive the $250 million it seeks for an array of construction projects.

The district's board of education on Monday approved a resolution authorizing a referendum on a bond issue in that amount. Plans to close several schools and build several others over the next three to six years will move forward with a few caveats.

The school-civilian task force that developed those plans, which comprise the first phase of a larger master plan for school facilities, backpedaled on its recommendation to close Wilson Elementary School ahead of Monday's meeting.

The 90-year-old school had recently been added to the list of schools slated for closure based on feedback from district residents. But in delivering its final recommendation on Monday, the group suggested that the school remain open at least for the time being.

Canyon Lake, Robbinsdale and Horace Mann elementary schools would still be closed under the plan, as was first proposed in April.

Rapid City High School, the district's alternative high school, may possibly be turned into a new elementary school under the plan the school board approved on Monday. The task force had initially advised that the building should gradually absorb programming currently housed at the district's Lincoln and Jefferson buildings, both of which would have closed. The two are now slated to stay open through the first phase of the plan. 

Finally, one of the three new elementary schools that would be constructed in phase one for $30 million apiece is now proposed to open in west or southwest Rapid City. It was originally proposed to open southwest of Highway 16 and Catron Boulevard.

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The plan maintains its original recommendation that South and West middle schools be rebuilt where they stand for $45 million each. Approximately $15 million will also still be set aside for the renovations of Pine Dale, Meadowbrook, Knollwood and Black elementary schools.

Stevens High School will still receive additions to its fine arts wing along with safety and security upgrades for an estimated $22 million. A further $33 million will be left over for similar upgrades and for classroom remodeling district-wide.

The changes address some concerns that board member Christine Stephenson previously raised with the plan, namely that it forsakes schools in the city's core in favor of development on its outskirts.

"This district, more than anything else, needs money for its facilities," she said shortly before the vote. 

Board members ultimately voted to put the bond on the ballot by a 6-1 vote, with Kate Thomas dissenting. She said after the meeting that she had difficulty supporting the bond issue, which would levy a property tax of $1 for every $1,000 of a home's assessed value, because of the strain it would put on the district's agricultural property owners, whom she represents.

School Spokesperson Katy Urban said after the meeting that some members of the task force have already expressed interest in forming a ballot question committee in favor of the bond issue.

The referendum is set for Sept. 17.

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— Contact Matt Guerry at matthew.guerry@rapidcityjournal.com

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