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Rapid City school board hears complaints about potential suspension of Lakota immersion school

Big Eagle + Sazue
Val Big Eagle and Amy Sazue, members of the Rapid City Area Schools Parent Advisory Committee, address the Board of Education Tuesday night.

Rapid City school board members heard concerns at a Tuesday meeting about whether the district can sustain an existing Lakota immersion program.

The board took no official vote; however, a lack of qualified teaching candidates for open positions appears to mean an end to the program — for now. The program is taught in the Lakota language with an emphasis on Lakota culture, heritage and values.

Nicole Swigart is the interim CEO for Rapid City Area Schools. She says there were two questions to answer about the program heading into the fall.

"If we were going to be able to move forward with the program, or if we would need to shutter it for one year and work hard to reset and determine where we were falling flat on the recruiting process.”

Some parents involved with the program disagree. Val Big Eagle is the chair of a local parent advisory committee.

"I know there were qualified candidates that applied, and for whatever reason, they’re unable to get on.”

Another member of the parent advisory committee is Amy Sazue. She says there is a lack of trust.

“I’m happy to see the additions to the school board and hope they jump in fast and learn the history this district has had with Title VI, with parents, with Indigenous people, and that they educate themselves on that and why this is important.”

Some but not all school board members offered a commitment to keep working toward a solution.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering education, healthcare, arts and culture.