RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO) — A lack of teachers has become an issue nationwide. In western KELOLAND, the Rapid City Area Schools had to drop the Lakota Immersion Program because of the staffing shortage.

The Lakota Immersion Program started as a kindergarten classroom with students learning school curriculum in the Lakota Language. But it’s being postponed this school year, much to the disappointment of parents, like Valeriah Big Eagle.

“I had seen so much growth from him because he had that opportunity and I fear that because it’s going to be postponed and he is no longer going to be in the classroom that he is going to lose himself a little bit,” Big Eagle said.

When the program started last year, the district had hopes for continued growth. However, a lack of teachers applying makes the option impossible.

“But, we are not willing to sit back and wait until next year to hire. We are posting and hiring if possible this year and we will put them to work in the district and then move them into that program,” Interim Superintendent Nicole Swigart, Rapid City Schools, said.

The Lakota Immersion Program was going to be held here at General Beadle Elementary, where about 71 percent of the student population is Native American.

“And talking with the families, it was really hard because they were so excited and those that were invested last year, to hear that their students couldn’t participate this year was difficult,” Principal Johanna Sailor, General Beadle Elem., said.

The School District and parents are hopeful the program will return next year.

“We were looking forward to it but we are not letting go, we are not giving up, we are going to keep working,” Principal Sailor said.

“It’s unfortunate and I hope that the school district does a lot of work to make sure that this continues,” Big Eagle said.

The Rapid City Schools are also dealing with staffing shortages in several other programs. This year the District had to cut Career and Technical Education, and Spanish 4.