CASTLEWOOD, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been nearly a year since a tornado caused significant damage to the town of Castlewood and it’s school. While they plan to rebuild, there was a bond election on Tuesday to also expand the existing building.

There were two bond questions on Tuesday’s ballot. The first one was $6 million, which includes new and expanded classrooms, a new gym and other updated spaces. The second bond question included additional add-ons if the first bond passed. Both failed, and the first one was just shy of 15 votes.

May 12, 2022 is a day people in Castlewood will never forget.

“This storm just devastated our community,” Castlewood resident Karen Schooley said.

Devastation that left parts of the school building in shambles.

“The school is just the life of our community, and we just need to move forward and it’s just a sad day here,” Schooley said.

While retired now, Schooley served as the school’s business manager for over 30 years. She supported the bond issue.

“We need to replace our school, and we just felt that now is the time to make it bigger and better. The school, the gyms are the life of our community. They’re just busy seven days a week. It’s the place for the kids to go year-round. And we need to make more classrooms because our enrollment is growing,” Schooley said.

The school district hosted two community meetings to discuss the bonds in February.

Superintendent Peter Books says he was surprised the first one did not pass.

“That was definitely our hope that question one and the $6 million would go, so a little surprised. Sad for the students and sad for the for the staff, but we’re very resilient and we have been since May 12 and we’ll keep going,” Books said.

Adding on to the school has been a discussion for a while, long before the tornado hit, but now that they have to rebuild, Books says it feels like the right time to expand, too.

“We want to be efficient and fiscally responsible and do it now, so we feel like this is the best time to do it. So that was the whole purpose with the bond ask,” Books said.

But for now, it’s back to the drawing board.

“We’ll have to take a step back and the administration will work with the school board on what our options are moving forward and see what we want to do from here on out,” Books said.

In the meantime, the school district has adapted. Local churches were used at the beginning of the year for some classes. Now, modular classrooms are in place.

To help with getting kids from the main building to the new modular classrooms, especially in these South Dakota winters, they built a tunnel out of three storage containers.

“The thing I missed most, probably, was the collaboration between the teachers, and moving into the mobile units, we have our collaboration back and honestly it feels like school. I mean, we’ve been in here for so long now that the kids don’t think anything of it,” second grade teacher Sandra Everson said.

Books says they are close to working out a deal with insurance for the rebuild, and they want to start that process this spring

Looking at the results of the bond election: they needed 60 percent of the vote to be yes for it to pass.

Bond Election Results

To see more information about the bonds, you can visit the Castlewood School District website.