Temperatures force Rapid City Schools to release students early

Why this is the best solution right now
The late evening news on KEVN Black Hills Fox Sunday
Published: Sep. 6, 2022 at 5:02 PM MDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - September is usually the time of the year when summer heat cools down to fall temperatures.

However, this year is a little different and the high temperatures continue to hit western South Dakota. This resulted in students at several schools in the area being released early Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

“So, we have 13 buildings in our district that have no central air conditioning,” stated interim CEO of the Rapid City Area School District Nicole Swigart.

The buildings closing early are some of the oldest ones in the Rapid City and they retain a lot of heat.

“Those rooms were getting up into the 90s and that’s very unhealthy for students,” said Swigart.

So why not just add air conditioning to the schools? Well, it’s not that easy.

“In addition to it being a multi-million-dollar cost, many of those buildings do not have the wiring infrastructure to support an electric draw and we’re literally unable to even look at adding central air to some of our properties,” explained Swigart.

Swigart says the district has tried in the past to get the funding for the air but with no luck. She added she’s thankful online groups have talked about GoFundMe drives or bake sales to buy fans for classrooms, but it might not make a huge difference.

“We do have 70 portable units that we use based on the need of health concerns for staff or students, but that does not cover that space. So, I love the fact the community is getting behind the need to do something in this situation, but as we move forward and have to look at bond issues for replacing these outdated buildings, I’d like them to step up and support us at that time,” said Swigart.

After combining every day students will go home early for the heat, they will have lost a total of eight academic hours since the start of the school year.

Teachers are working with students to make up that time instead of switching to online classes for the days students are let out early.

“We learned during Covid that e-learning did not work equally for all families,” explained Swigart.

Some families, she said, don’t have access to the internet at home or the time to help their students between their own jobs. So, for now, the solution is to let students out before the hottest part of the day.

“These are tough calls to make, but we’re doing the best we can and we’re always keeping kids’ safety at heart,” said Swigart.