Lakota Tech principal Stephanie Eisenmenger, left, and Dr. Anthony Fairbanks, Oglala Lakota County School District superintendent, stand in front of the future gym and main entrance to Lakota Tech High School. Photo by Travis Dewes / Native Sun News Today

Native Sun News Today: Lakota Tech: First of a kind

BATESLAND - Construction is making leaps and bounds at the new Lakota Tech High School with floors, wall frames, door frames, and the HVAC system currently being installed for the Freshman Academy wing.

After the building is completed it will house 18 classrooms and 400 enrolled students within 90,000 square feet. With enrollment growing the way it is now, each wing of the building was specifically designed for future expansion as the school aims to build capacity in the next few years.

The gym on site is built with pre cast walls that are constructed off site and set in place upon arrival. A majority of the gym’s walls are currently installed, and the remainder of them will be placed after all of the roof joists are set. With a mezzanine as well as traditional seating, the gym will be able to host up to 1,700 people during activities such as basketball, archery, and volleyball.

“Construction is coming along quickly so far” said Dr. Anthony Fairbanks, Oglala Lakota County School District superintendent, “and we have a great team of workers onsite. We are really impressed with the design of our school. Scull Construction and Upper Deck Architects are doing a great job and I appreciate all their support.”

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Posted by Lakota Tech High School on Thursday, January 9, 2020

Land is also being planned for a football field to be built, but another school’s field will be used until that time. With 75 staff positions, there will also be a prospective 80 homes being built close to the school.

The construction of Lakota Tech High School began shortly before the completion of the Wolf Creek School expansion. Wolf Creek is now able to educate nearly double the amount of students with 14 added classrooms in an additional 30,000 square feet. The entirety of the Oglala Lakota County School District enrollment right now is around 700 students including the virtual high school, but in recent years it has spiked above 900.

Lakota Tech is set to open for the fall term in August of 2020, and has been enrolling students since January of this year. The school is a Career and Technical Education (CTE) high school, meaning that students not only learn academic knowledge but also technical skills and professional abilities.

Recent research shows that graduation rates for students enrolled in a CTE concentrated program is 93%. High school graduates from CTE programs will see a 9.2% increase of employability over their non-CTE peers. And students taking a CTE course for every two academic courses also minimizes the risk of dropping out exponentially.

Only a quarter of eighth graders that go into high school finish with their diploma in Oglala Lakota County. Laura Schiebe, South Dakota’s state CTE director, said “a CTE education has potential to keep kids engaged by hands on learning that is applicable to the real world.” And that “students will have all the skills that are directly applicable to either continue on to college or enter the workforce”

Currently there is no CTE high school in South Dakota that awards diplomas. Schiebe said that “Lakota Tech is the first project of its kind and there is a unique opportunity for students to learn CTE skills and graduate high school. They have done a great job of getting community support and involvement.”

Dr. Fairbanks said that not only will Lakota Tech be the first CTE high school to award diplomas in South Dakota, but it will also be a first on any Indian Reservation in the United States. Fairbanks said that within this unique opportunity “our curriculum and classes are relevant and personalized to our local communities and the interests of our students”

Community members were involved in the identification of curriculum needs and interests during the process of making the school, and Fairbanks was quick to thank them for all of their help saying: “The support from parents and community members has been great. I really appreciate all of the help and support from our Oglala Lakota County School District board members, staff, and students as well.”


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