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Rapid City's Canyon Lake Elementary to close on updated timeline

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C.J. Keene
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Canyon Lake parents filled the Rapid City Area Schools Board meeting Tuesday night to offer their thoughts on the possible closure of the school

About two dozen parents and teachers from Canyon Lake elementary joined the discussion at Tuesday night’s Rapid City Area Schools Board meeting. The board voted to close Canyon Lake Elementary following the 2023-24 school year.

The possible closure has long been discussed by the board, but the announcement late last month that the school would close following this May drew heavy responses from parents and staff members. Board first vice president Troy Carr offered an apology to the schools’ community.

“I did not realize until the meeting how short of a time it was to be informed and make a decision," Carr said. "To back up a little bit, when I came on the board, I kept hearing the talk about closing Canyon Lake. I came on the board wanting to get things done, so I was like – boom – lets close it. Court says we gotta close it. Let’s close it. I did not realize the emotion of that decision.” 

Fellow board member Clay Colombe opposed the initial timeline for closure and said communication with parents should be a priority moving forward.

“I just didn’t feel that worked in dealing with parents, dealing with families, dealing with the community," Colombe said. "There needs to be more communication, there needs to be more conversations to be had. This is a very difficult situation for us, but also for what it places on the families in the district.”

Ultimately, it is the infrastructure of the 70-year-old building that is leading to its closure. RCAS superintendent Nicole Swigart said the district can’t keep kicking the can.

“Although this is a motion to close it at the end of 23-24, there’s a lot – I mean, there’s two meetings a month between now and then where new information could be brought forward, changes could be made," Swigart said. "But if we just say, ‘we’re going to talk about it later’, will we talk about it later?”

Despite the emotion of earlier meetings between administrators and parents, this meeting was cordial, and parents thanked the board for hearing their perspective and delaying the closure.

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