New Rapid City Alternative High School to help non-traditional - KOTA Territory News

New Rapid City Alternative High School to help non-traditional students


First it was Rapid City Central High School, then Dakota Middle School, and now it will house the Rapid City Academy program.

A multimillion dollar renovation is underway at Dakota Middle School, and Rapid City Academy schools are just a year away from finding a new home under its roof.

Science teacher Brenda Murphy says her students at Jefferson Academy face unique obstacles.

"I have a student that has just come back with us this week and she has a child. Younger kids having their children early, they struggle," said Murphy.

"We don't have at risk students, we have students who find themselves in at-risk situations," said Dr. Tim Mitchell, Superintendent of Rapid City School.

Since opening in 1990,  Academy Schools, like Jefferson, have tailored their curriculum to help students in non–traditional situations earn their diplomas.

"There are as many reasons for them to be here as there are kids here. Attendance got in the way, they fell behind, they're not on track to graduate. They're not going to have the traditional high school experience. Electives, band, orchestra, football teams, we're not going to have those things," said Deb Steele, Principal of the Rapid City Academy Program.

Thanks to a $12 million dollar renovation, all Academy programs will now be housed under one roof at the old Dakota Middle school. And with the new school, comes new opportunities for collaborations with local technical colleges.

"Through partnerships, we're hoping to feed kids during their junior or senior year to technical colleges. So when they graduate, they've already got a year or two of college down. We know a high school diploma is not enough. They need a some post secondary education," said Steele.

 And the new school is the first step towards centralizing and strengthening those much needed services.

 "Many of these kids, they take five years or five and half years [to graduate] because of unfortunate life circumstances. But under current definitions, they're termed a "drop out"," said Mitchell.

"Through having creative ways of educating kids and having them have success, we'll be better teachers and have a better chance of making sure they get through and learn what they need to learn for whatever the next step is," said Steele.

The new Rapid City High School will open next fall and house approximately 500 to 600 students.

The Rapid City Theatre Center, also located in the new school, opened its doors last month.


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