Oglala Lakota County Schools break ground on new high school

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- A little history was made Friday on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The Oglala Lakota County School District broke ground a new high school that will mark two firsts: It's the fist votech high school on the reservation and it's the first public high school.

The Oglala Lakota County School District has educated about 1,800 students from kindergarten through eighth grade and then graduates them to the four high schools on the reservation.

But some students get lost in the transfer as none of the high schools are run by the district. Teachers and administrators lose contact with the kids.

The high drop out rate on Pine Ridge hovers around 70 percent so school leaders feel they can improve those numbers by providing continuity for the students.

"Whether it's at Wolf Creek or Aberdeen or Rapid City or anywhere in between relationships truly are a key to the success of students," said South Dakota Sec. of Education Don Kirkegaard who was attended the groundbreaking ceremony. "Ror Wolf Creek to be able to go K-12 will be a huge step in continuing to foster those relationships."

The new school will focus on practical job training subjects like computer science, welding, public safety It has been a long time in coming.

"I first started teaching here 42 years ago and at that time we were talking about building a high school here but we've never had the people to push it," said Bryan Brewer, the president of the Oglala Lakota County School District. "Right now we do. We've always our children to be on the same playing field, to have the same opportunities as the rest of the students in the state of South Dakota. Now we do."

And there's an important cultural element planned for the new high school.

"Not only will they be educated in the technology," said Brewer, "but they'll also be educated in our culture and our language. We have to know where we come from and we have to know our culture."

Kirkegaard said he sees a bright future.

"I'm confident that whether it's test scores, whether it's attendance, whether it's overall graduation rate, we're going to see significant improvement across the board," he said.

District officials hope to have the new $20 million dollar project finished in two years and are planning for about 400 students.