In 2003 I had the privilege of being the first travelling speech therapist for the Rapid City Area Schools. Some facilities were a day or half day short on an available speech therapist, so that’s how I first became involved with the school district.
During that time, I was primarily dividing my days between the Kibben Kuster, Canyon Lake, Robbinsdale, Rapid Valley, South Canyon and Meadowbrook elementary schools. I also served as a substitute speech therapist for other schools, when their assigned therapists were either ill, on vacation or had a maternity or medical leave. After I stopped working for the district, I volunteered as a room mom and remained active within the PTA for five years. I was quite familiar with these buildings since I was working in them for extended periods of time between 2003-2011.
Fast forward to when I took a tour as City Council President last fall. I was stunned to see such a marked difference in these schools. Sloped ceilings, failing foundations, wall crack monitors, water intrusion, antiquated equipment… I could go on.
This is what occurs when you don’t invest in our public buildings for nearly a half century. We would not allow this gross neglect for our own homes, workplaces, bodies, relationships or families. To their credit, the administration and staff have done their part (and then some) to keep business as usual despite the increasing capacity and the surrounding mechanical and structural faults.
We have approximately six schools within our Ward 5 community: South Canyon, Pinedale, Canyon Lake, Wilson, West Middle School and Stevens High School. But this issue effects all of Rapid City. Our schools should have building equity with structurally safe, open, and conducive learning environments for our students. Although my own children have now graduated, I view the kids in our community as OUR children; regardless if they are related by blood. They are our neighbors, our friends, our friend’s children, etc. and they all live and work and play in Rapid City.
The school bond issue stemmed from a taskforce assigned to fully review a study of the conditions of our schools. I have read the testimonials of those professionals who were tasked with this study, as well as heard from individuals who have direct knowledge of the subject matter. These sources include: task force members, community leaders, engineers, RCAS administration, elected School Board officials, financial advisors, various levels of staff, volunteers and students.
The overwhelming consensus is that Rapid City schools are in dire need of this school bond. These are the people on the front lines and I trust their insight, motives and integrity. Groups and individuals whose opinions I don’t trust include the armchair quarterbacks and the perennial nay-sayers who uniformly oppose any capital expenditures for infrastructure improvement.
As a community we have united behind projects such as the new arena, the Elevate group, and the Monument Health rebranding. We all look forward to the benefits of the B-21 bomber coming to our area. How do we attract (and retain) families and business to this region, with the optics that we are a community that does not believe in or values education and is hesitant to invest in our children’s futures? Time and again, I hear from constituents who have concerns about our deteriorating infrastructure. Certainly, our schools comprise a vital component of overall public infrastructure. This is where we grow minds and groom future leaders, which is a significant and proven investment in our community.
Despite district maintenance staff efforts to preserve our school buildings, along with the School Board and administrators using capital outlay dollars to build schools while completing multiple renovation projects over the years, the facility needs are mounting. Remember it has been nearly 50 years since we invested in our public schools. I am voting YES because I care about our community infrastructure; but mostly, I support this bond issue because our children are worth the investment.