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This past spring, I had the opportunity to lead a group of community leaders on a tour of some of Rapid City’s oldest and newest school buildings. As I pointed out cracks spanning from floor to ceiling and told the group how during a safety drill a teacher discovered she could no longer close her classroom door due to the continuous shifting of the school building off of its foundation – their jaws literally dropped.

When I showed the group how crowded many of our classrooms, bathrooms and hallways are and explained the safety and security risks inherent with the multiple annex buildings at Canyon Lake Elementary, one member said, “This just isn’t right.”

As we moved from Robbinsdale to South Middle to Canyon Lake, their responses were similar.

That day, we ended the tour at Corral Drive Elementary and Southwest Middle School, two buildings in our district that are great examples of healthy learning environments for our children. Councilwoman Lisa Modrick commented “All kids deserve to learn in an environment like this.” She also noted that prior to the tour, she was skeptical about the cost until she saw the needs for herself. Another person said, “Wow, this was eye-opening.”

The Board of Education and I went into the process of creating and acting upon a long-range facilities plan wanting to listen. We listened to the recommendations of the community members on the Facility Taskforce and listened to community members who attended our preliminary facilities presentations.

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Recently, we have heard from many other members of our community saying more time is needed before we vote on a General Obligation Bond to support those recommendations. Time is needed for our entire community to learn of the needs those on the tour saw firsthand. Time is needed for every resident in the RCAS attendance area to have enough knowledge to make an informed decision when they vote.

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Because the Board of Education and I have been very intentional in seeking public feedback, what we have heard from parents, staff, business leaders, financial experts, and the broader public at large has helped us with our desire to put forth the best overall plan for Rapid City Area Schools. Therefore, at the District’s Annual Board meeting on Thursday, July 11, we will deliberate a recommendation for the Board to delay the bond election scheduled for this September.

This will allow more time for members of our community to tour our school facilities and learn firsthand what is needed to expand and strengthen the opportunities for every child in our community to learn and benefit our community for generations to come.

In the coming months, please watch for announcements about school open houses, building tours, community presentations and more. Please engage so together we can make an informed decision for the Rapid City Community.

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Lori Simon is the superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools. School board members Ron Riherd, Amy Policky and Mike Roesler contributed.

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