First public high school on Pine Ridge to open in 2020

Gov. Krisit Noem and members of the Oglala Lakota School District. Courtesy of the State of South Dakota.

PIERRE, S.D. – Governor Kristi Noem and Oglala Lakota County school officials are partnering to build the first physical, local public high school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation and the first career and technical education high school on a South Dakota reservation.

In a statement, Noem stated, “Building a physical CTE high school in Oglala Lakota County will bolster the area’s workforce and empower students with real-life skills and career opportunities to help them succeed after graduation. This will have a profound impact on the economic growth of Oglala Lakota County and South Dakota."

According to a press release, the Oglala Lakota County School District serves 22 communities within 2,000 square miles. Currently, the district does not have a physical, public high school and operates from virtual locations that can serve between 50 and 250 students at a time. The other high schools in the county are Federal Bureau of Indian Education or private schools.

“This project has been in the works for a long time, and we’re grateful for Governor Noem’s support," said Anthony Fairbanks, Superintendent of Oglala Lakota County School District. "I am also very grateful for all the help and support from our school board members, staff, students, and community members. All of us are working together as a team, one family, doing whatever it takes to support our students. Building a physical high school will undoubtedly boost education in our district and create a launchpad for our students’ career development.”

The high school will be constructed in part through funds from the State Aid Intercept Program, a program designed to reduce interest costs for school districts through credit enhancement. Between refinancing and a new tax credit, this will save the school approximately $6 million.

The school is scheduled to open in August 2020 with an enrollment of about 400 students.