Community concerns about RCAS school building infrastructure

Infrastructure questions arise in school buildings part of the RCAS
Published: Sep. 12, 2022 at 8:14 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - The Rapid City Area Schools district had to close some of its school doors last week due to high temperatures making it dangerous for some students to be in the building. This raised some eyebrows and brought into question faults in various school buildings in the district.

While the age of several different school buildings in the RCAS district started to show last week, the lack of air conditioning in the buildings was the cherry on top for the community. Plenty of members from the area shared their thoughts on social media on what they thought about the situation.

But as easy as it would be to recommend the installation of an HVAC system to solve the A/C problem, school officials say this is not the case. The district must first carefully inspect the building thoroughly before even considering the allocations of resources.

“You can be looking at several hundreds of thousands of dollars to several millions of dollars just depending on the footprint of the building. Again, what type of system the building currently has and whether or not a system could be retrofitted to fit into that current system,” said RCAS Director of Business and Support Services Coy Sasse.

Many in the community voiced their opinions on social media by accusing the district of not allocating “COVID” funds toward the schools. Many of the community members say they want the RCAS to provide more funds in order to fix the old buildings.

According to the RCAS, they currently don’t have the budget to fix all of the buildings. This has been an issue since 2020 when voters defeated a bond vote by a tally of 9,287 votes in favor to 7,211 opposed, or 56% to 43%. South Dakota law requires that school bonds must pass by 60% or more. The bond would have issued nearly $189.5 million to the school district and was primarily focused on restoring current existing buildings.

But, Sasse mentioned the Esser fund or better known as the “COVID” fund, helped relieve some of the stress for one of the RCAS middle schools by allowing the district to stretch some of the funding in order to build a new facility to replace the “run-down” building.

“The decision was made to address the South Middle School facility and rebuild that facility. Part of the reason behind that idea was that that building was in desperate need of repair. It scored the lowest in our facility study score,” said Sasse.

RCAS also uses the Capital Outlay fund, but it provides a limited amount of money that the district needs. Sasse mentions the funds are primarily used to help the schools keep up with technology purchases as well as academic purchases and this makes it a competition for schools to access these important resources.

“Very difficult on a yearly basis to line up those resources to ensure that all needs are met. So that’s really where the prioritization of those different areas comes in, in trying to address what is the highest priority this year and how we can best use our resources most effectively,” said Sasse.

While certain issues keep rearing their heads in the different buildings in the district, RCAS mentioned that they are working to find a solution for them, maybe it’s time for another bond run.