Frequently Asked Questions
Is the government going to provide Rapid City Area Schools with funds to meet Ellsworth AFB needs for schools?
That is to be determined. Any additional federal funding that we would receive as a result of the expansion of Ellsworth Air Force Base would be based on the number of military connected students that we serve in our District.
How many years before the bonds are retired?
Is there any concern about staffing these new higher capacity buildings?
Staffing is always a concern, even in the current market. The District would develop a recruitment plan. On a side note, having an opportunity to work in a newer facility can be a selling point for school staff.
Will all contracts be bid or no bid?
Who will pay for the campaign for this bond issue?
A group or individual that is not the school district.
Will Stevens High School get a new auditorium with the new fine arts wing?
No, but the theatre will receive theatrical lighting and ADA upgrades.
What is the projected increase in tax base with all the new growth that is expected?
An exact amount would be hard to predict however we know that in any given year the tax base grows by 5 to 7 percent in our community.
Can you provide data showing evidence that an older facility is detrimental to a quality education?
A recent study done by the California Policy Lab at UCLA and UC Berkley show that when it comes to student learning, facilities matter. Researches tracked the individual test scores, classroom grades, and attendance rates of more than five million individual Los Angeles Unified School District students between 2002 and 2012, before and after those students moved from overcrowded, dilapidated schools to new facilities. They concluded that a more than $10 billion multi-year school construction effort had a positive academic impact on students. You can read more in the April 22, 2019 Education Week article entitled Does Moving to a brand-new school building improve student learning?
Will boundary adjustments impact current students, or just incoming students?
Current and incoming
Classes are crowded now. How do we deal with this until new buildings are built?
Currently, our only options are to increase class sizes or to force transfer students to other schools. As enrollment increases and we look for a quick fix, the District may consider adding a floating teacher or paraprofessional to provide additional support for grade levels that are most impacted.
When the new buildings are in place, what are the class sizes expected to be?
In the future, the goal would be to determine Board approved class size ranges for each level – elementary, middle and high school. Elementary class sizes should be the smallest, with primary classrooms (K-2) with fewer students than upper elementary classes. Should we have a successful bond, we would immediately begin planning to bring recommendations on class sizes forward.
How does redrawing boundaries impact busing?
To be determined.
How does redrawing boundaries impact Title funding?
To be determined.
What is the value of Lincoln and Jefferson properties and will the district be selling the property/land on 5th Street?
- Jefferson – land and building $1.5 million
- Lincoln – $330,000
- No decisions have been made about selling the land on 5th Street
Can the District cut administrators and use those dollars to pay for facilities projects?
The number of RCAS’ administrators is already below the national average. Per the state definition, just 2.6 percent of our overall staff are considered administrators. We also have another 21 positions that are considered management/leadership positions and make up an additional 1.18 percent. Depending on the source, the national average for administration is cited to be between 4.5 percent and 5.6 percent.
Can Ellsworth Air Force Base give an estimate of how many additional people will come to Rapid City as a result of the expansion?
Not at this time.
Will there be anything done to address the ADA and health issues at Wilson Elementary?
Ongoing maintenance to monitor air quality and other needs will continue. Addressing all of Wilson’s ADA issues would be costly. Whether to leave Wilson as is, close the building or invest in it is ultimately a decision that the Board will have to make. This plan does address capacity issues at Wilson. The plan also calls for dollars to be dedicated to deferred maintenance needs throughout the district.
Did the task force consider accessibility issues for students (and the public) with physical disabilities and ADA when making its recommendations? If so, how is this reflected in the plan? If not, please explain why.
Absolutely. New buildings will be ADA accessible. There is also money in the plan to address some areas that are not ADA accessible in some of our older buildings.
What are the plans for rezoning based on the possible new builds, or additions and closures?
These are details that have not been decided at this point. Once a final recommendation is developed, RCAS administrators will take a close look at boundaries and share the outcome of any decision with the general public ahead of a possible election as part of the formal phase of this process.
How much did the remodel cost to the current administration building? What was estimated cost of the remodeling the old BH Corp building for the new administration building? Now, what is the actual cost going to be? Where did these funds come from?
RCAS’ portion of the remodel costs at the City, School Administration Building would have been $7.5 million. The cost to renovate the new administration building (The Rushmore Building) is $4.2 million. We saved $3.3 million by moving to the new building. The cost of the Rushmore Building was paid for with the money we received from the City for our portion of CSAC. The renovation dollars came from our Capital Outlay fund.
How much money has the Rapid City Area School district transferred from the Capital Outlay fund to General Operating Budget in the past 20 years? How much in what years and why weren’t those Capital Outlay dollars reserved for building upgrades?
Capital outlay flexibility was fully reimbursed in 2014. Prior to that time funds could only be borrowed and then had to be repaid. The Board of Education used and has continued to use Capital Outlay Flexibility since the failed opt out in spring 2015. That amount has been $5,000,000 per year. The funds are used for ongoing expenses in the General Fund. That fund is 85% salaries and benefits. Further, it is important to note that Capital Outlay is also intended to be the main funding source for curriculum and technology purchases, which are expensive.
Is the Rapid City Area School district at the maximum mill levy allowed by the state for property taxation?
What are the projected savings based on closing those older school buildings identified compared to the projected operating costs for those new replacement school buildings?
Any operational savings due to the construction of new facilities would be minimal. These schools will be larger and may require additional support staff (custodians, food service employees). Additional administrative or support staff (counselors, social workers, etc.) may be needed to manage the larger student populations. Potential elementary class size reductions would also increase the overall teaching staff. Savings resulting from newer improved systems would likely be absorbed by the additional staffing cost.
What is the most efficient size of a building for Elementary schools, Middle schools and High Schools?
It varies based on the programming and partnerships in the school. The optimal enrollment at an elementary school is 500 to 700 and the recommended classroom size at an elementary school is 900 square feet. The overall square footage is typically between 70,000 and 90,000.
At the middle school level, the recommended enrollment is 800 to 1,000 students. The classroom square footage recommendations are around 1,000 square feet and the overall square footage is between 130,000 and 150,000.
At the high school level, typical enrollment is anywhere between 1,500 to 2,500. The average size of a classroom is typically 1,000 square feet or larger. The average overall square footage is 400,000 to 600,000.
What is the impact of TIFs in the Rapid City Area School District on current property tax cash flow projections?
Currently TIF’s have a minimal impact on the cash flow projections. The General Fund is equalized so any loss in local effort due to a TIF is made up by State Aid. Capital outlay is capped at CPI or 3 percent whichever is less plus growth up to 5 percent. This is based on tax collections from 2016. Valuations in the Rapid City School District typically would exceed these caps even with the current TIF’s. The cap effectively makes the TIF a non-factor.
What is the projected increase in new building construction property valuations that will be resulting from Rapid City Area School District growth? Include projected new Commercial and Residential construction. Also, will TIFs be allowed for this projected new construction that will delay those new properties from being taxed at full rates?
There is currently no projection that exists. The developers have not determined plans at this time. We likely will not know until the land is sold, building permits are purchased, and contractors begin to develop the property growth projections. We do know that Rapid City experiences 5 to 7 percent growth a year.
Is the proposed tax increase applicable only to residents within the city limits?
Anyone that resides in the Rapid City school district boundary will see an increase in taxes as a result of the passage of a bond.
How long does this tax increase stay in effect and is it a guaranteed time frame so that I know when this increased tax payment is going to end.
The property tax increase would stay in effect for 25 years.
How much has our student body grown?
In 1945, the district’s enrollment was 2,688. Today, our enrollment is over 13,700, so our student population is more than five times as big now than it was in the 1940s.
Is this a capacity issue? A decaying structures issue? Or more about the changing ways schools are used?
It is all of these. Our needs are mounting and will be compounded with the expansion of Ellsworth Air Force Base and the economic development initiatives being driven in our community.
Capacity: The three schools that are on the Task Force’s preliminary closure list – Robbinsdale, Horace Mann and Canyon Lake – all built in the 50s or earlier – were not built to hold the number of students that they are currently holding. For instance, Robbinsdale classrooms are around 600 square feet, whereas General Beadle classrooms are 900 square feet. Classrooms at both schools often hold the same number of students. Due to crowding at many of our schools – we have stages that are utilized as classrooms, we have erected make-shift walls in classrooms to increase capacity and there is no longer space in many schools to pull students out of class to do one-on-one work or testing. Many of those students are forced to work in the hallways. Administrators and counselors utilize closets as office space.
Through the years, the District has worked to address capacity concerns, which in part, is the result of a shift in the city’s population, through forced transfers. Increasingly though, that method, which isn’t ideal to begin with, is no longer working. The schools that we used to transfer students to are also full. Redrawing boundaries at this point without increasing our capacity – would not do much good.
Finally, we are expecting our enrollment to increase. In the District’s MGT of America study done in 2015, researchers looked at a number of factors to estimate 2025 enrollment projections including students per household, the birth rate and other information. At that time, the prediction was that RCAS would see modest growth – with enrollment reaching somewhere between 15 and 16,000 by 2025. It is important to note that this study was done prior to the announcement of the expansion at Ellsworth Air Force Base or the onset of the economic development initiatives that have been recently undertaken.
Decaying Structures: If you take a walk through a few of Rapid City’s elementary or middle schools you will notice cracks in the walls; doors that are jerry-rigged to ensure that they can lock in the case of an emergency; cracks in the foundation; areas that are not accessible or easily accessible for students, staff, and families with disabilities; sewage issues; hot areas or really cold areas due to aging and decaying boiler systems. Our maintenance crew has done their best to maintain the buildings, however, with the issues that exist – there is always a possibility that we will be forced to shut down a school due to safety concerns. We are not at that point yet, but we do not want to wait to address the problem until it is a crisis. Further, finding replacement parts for these aging structures is increasingly difficult and expensive.
Changing the ways schools are used: Ideal 21st century learning spaces include more room for STEM and computer labs, flexible learning spaces for collaboration and hands-on learning, and infrastructure to support ever-changing technology, so that all our students are prepared with the knowledge and skills needed for jobs now and in the future.
Additionally, there have been dozens of school shootings in the last two decades. As a result, schools have had to rethink safety and security including safe entrances, cameras, and ALICE drills – just to name a few. We have to design our structures with safety and security in mind today more than ever before. With so many of our schools having entrances that once in, allow access to the rest of the school and more than 20 annexes throughout our district requiring students to travel back and forth between buildings, we have many safety and security needs.
What would three $30 million elementary schools look like? What would two $45 million middle schools look like? Are we getting a Chevy Impala or a Lexus?
A $30 million elementary school will meet our students’ needs today and in the future. There will be space on-site to add onto a building should we need it. The building will be constructed using sustainable products to keep maintenance costs down. For example, geothermal systems would be used for heating and ventilation. Playgrounds would have protective services – not pea gravel like we currently use. The building and playground would be ADA accessible and have safe pick-up and drop-off lanes. Additionally, each classroom at the elementary level will be a minimum of 900 square feet and bigger at the middle school level. The price increase for the middle schools comes as a result of more square feet.
The cost includes furnishings, architecture fees, and any required site modifications. In response to the comparison of an Impala or a Lexus – we would not include luxuries like a granite floor, but the schools will be built to last, which means the facilities won’t have sheet rocked walls, but masonry walls. We will pay more for sustainable products up front in order to recognize the savings in maintenance costs for decades to come
But would a $22 million fine arts wing at Stevens High School resemble Carnegie Hall?
No. That $22 million figure includes ADA improvements and theatrical lighting upgrades to the current theater. It also includes new practice spaces and safety and security measures throughout the buildings. It will pay for things like asbestos floor tile abatement, fire sprinklers, school parking lot and site modifications.
And what does $30 million for deferred district maintenance mean? Are the roofs caving? The foundations crumbling? Does $30 million not go as far as it once did?
These dollars would be used to update obsolete light fixtures, energy inefficient single pane windows and doors at our older buildings, heating systems, and fire sprinkler systems. These funds would be used to do hazardous material abatement, ADA upgrades, elevator upgrades, keyless access systems and other security improvements. These funds would also be used to convert classrooms into lab and other spaces for STEAM and pathways.
The district must make clear: What amount would be foolish not to spend now? What is the minimum necessary to meet the needs for the next five years? For the next 10?
In the Task Force’s preliminary proposal, they have laid out what they believe are the district’s biggest and most urgent priorities and put those in Phase One; they put other needs in Phases Two and Three. This is a starting point. Now, we are seeking feedback to see if our community agrees with and is supportive of the plan – cost included.
Can the district easily defend the full $250 million, because it will require much explaining to get a supermajority, and the district has only weeks to show proof.
At this point, the District is not trying to show proof. Once a final recommendation is taken to the Board of Education for action, the Board will determine time lines for a general obligation bond vote, and the formal stage of the process will begin. At that point, there will likely be three to four months to show proof of our need. The Task Force studied the issue and believes this is the need. The question is, after presenting the facts and answering questions from the community members, does the community agree, or do they have other suggestions that the Task Force and Board should consider? This is a preliminary proposal. It is not the final recommendation. During the month of May, the Task Force will take the feedback they receive from these community input sessions and related survey and will then determine what the final recommendation should look like.
Why are we not able to do a sales tax increase for the money, instead of property tax increase?
A sales tax has to be approved by the legislature. There is not a mechanism in place to do that at the district level. The sole option the Legislature provides for school districts to do large scale facility improvements is a general obligation bond, which increases property taxes.
Why aren’t preschool students not included when discussing overcrowding at our schools. We have six district preschools.
New schools will be large enough to accommodate pre-K classrooms.
What happens after the Task Force makes a final recommendation to the Board?
The Board will consider the Task Force’s recommendation and then decide what to move forward with and whether to ask the community to support a bond.
Wilson is the District’s oldest elementary school with many needs. Why is it not addressed in the first phase?
The Task Force looked at several factors besides building condition, like capacity. The group believes they could address both capacity and aging buildings by building schools, and subsequently closing others, in the areas outlined in their preliminary proposal. In this proposal, fewer students would attend Wilson Elementary.
If there is a bond and it passes, how long will it take to do the projects outlined in this preliminary proposal?
This is subject to a number of factors like contractor availability, but the goal would be to complete the projects in Phase I in 3 to 6 years. Again, this is an estimated time line.
If the school I work/teach at closes, will I be out of a job?
Rapid City is growing, which means our staff needs will continue to grow. While staff may move to a different building, there is absolutely no plan to have fewer staff members district-wide.
If you are building three schools and closing three schools – how does that create more capacity?
The schools being built will accommodate more students – around 750.
Where will the students go while the buildings are being built?
Since all three proposed elementary schools are on new sites, students would stay at the current building until the new schools are built. While the middle schools will be built on the same lots, they will not be in the exact spaces where the current buildings are located. School at South and West would continue as usual, while construction happens nearby.
Why not build a third high school?
Our high schools are not over capacity. Our immediate need is at the elementary level where our numbers are up significantly. Those capacity concerns are starting to carry over to the middle school level. Currently, RCAS does own land in the Valley. Eventually, a third high school could be built there.
I know you mentioned that Jefferson and Lincoln buildings would be sold, but I was curious what will happen to the three elementary schools that will be closed? Will the building remain on site and owned by the RCAS? Will the buildings be demolished but RCAS keep the land for possible future builds? Will the buildings be sold?
This has not been determined. It will depend on the site, the value of the land, and an array of other factors.
Who will be in charge of managing the funds? What checks and balance system will be in place to ensure these funds don't end up in the general fund? oes Here
The funds will be held in a separate fund to be managed by the district. The fund will be subject to our independent audit to verify they have been used in the manner described by the prospectus for the bond offer.