School opens in Oglala Lakota County -- with some changes

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PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KOTA TV) -- It seems like only yesterday we were watching fireworks on the fourth of July but for some folks Wednesday was back to school day.

The Wolf Creek School doors just outside of Pine Ridge Village opened this morning for 1,800 kids and Oglala Lakota County Schools Superintendent Dr. Anthony Fairbanks was on hand to great them.

"It's an excellent day," he said. "Opening day. First day of school."

And for Wolf Creek, which runs from pre-K through eighth grade, it was a first day with some big changes. The grounds are undergoing a $15 million renovation and construction is soon to begin on a new high school next door.

"What's really important is that the students will have room," said Fairbanks. "This school was built to house 350 students and now we're building the school to house at least 900."

How many students were in here last year?, he was asked.

"850," he said.

The school-as-construction-site means that the 6th, 7th, and 8th grades will move to the SuAnne Big Crow Center just down the road for the next year and a half. The center underwent some big modifications to become a school. But Big Crow officials say they are happy to help.

"Education has always been our number one priority," said the center's Director Leatrice Big Crow. "We have a gym and a pool here so people think we're a recreation center but education has always been our priority. Education is the key to a better life for our people."

But education can mean school ... and school can mean, well, the end of a holiday.

Wolf Creek student Tatanka Catches Enemy was asked if he were sad that his summer vacation was over.

"Yeah," he said with a smile and a laugh. "I want to cry right now."

Next week schools open all across the territory starting with Douglas, Red Cloud, Hot Springs and New Underwood on Monday.