RAPID CITY, S.D. (KELO)– More and more people of all ages are making a move to western KELOLAND. That has the Rapid City Area School district preparing for more students in the classrooms.

For the past year, South Middle School has been under construction to keep up with the growing district.

“Having a new building we are going to have classrooms be bigger, the hallways are going to be bigger so the students and teachers will have more room to do things in the classroom right now,” Principal Schmidt said.

“Right now, South Middle School can hold about 600 students. After this 68 million dollar expansion project, the school will be able to have over 800 students.

The project began due to necessary renovations, but Principal Darren Schmidt says it was also designed for growth.

“Our hallways are super small and congested, the classrooms are small and we are going to have more room to do things. When there are a lot more students, more interactive classrooms, the classrooms will be able to open up into other classrooms and hallways just to allow more space and collaboration,” Principal Schmidt said.

At East Middle School, Principal Terry Lundeen says they know more students are coming.

“Well you can’t ignore it. If you’ve been out in the valley you see all these apartment complexes, all these single family homes being built and it’s really hard to ignore so we know it’s coming and we will be as prepared as we can. There are just some physical limitations and staffing limitations but we know that we are going to continue to grow out here in the valley,” Principal Lundeen said.

With an increase in students, the middle schools are also expecting some growing pains.

“We want more teachers, we will need more teachers. One of the biggest challenges for me as a principal moving forward is how do we recruit and retain amazing educators and we need great families to move in so we are really excited about all of the new people that we get,” Principal Lundeen said.

“You just have more kids in there but there is more space. It does make things a little easier. But the staffing could be a concern just because we have staffing shortages across the nation right now and in other businesses too,” Principal Schmidt said.

Superintendent Nicole Swigart says the district has been strategically planning where to put an influx of students when the time comes.

“We have to keep that in mind as we look at the property that the district owns and our plans for building in the future to accommodate where we are actually seeing the growth,” Superintendent Swigart said.

For now, that means an expansion at South Middle along with other projects. No matter what the future brings, this is an exciting time for the school district.

“We are excited about the prospect of increasing numbers and supporting families and students and we look forward to finding ways to do what we know we do best, which is educate kids. And to do that, we need to figure out how we are going to meet the needs and build schools and hire certified staff and support staff and get the job done, but no matter what the community can know that we are going to get the job done,” Superintendent Swigart said.

The expansion project at South Middle School is scheduled to be completed in fall of 2024.