In 1913, the new high school (later referred to as the Coolidge building) was built as a result of a fire for $12,000.00. In 1923, plans were drawn up for another new high school just east of the 1913 building, with its front entrance lining up with Sixth Street. When the three-phased building was finished in 1937 the cost was $365,000.00.
The newly finished high school would encompass a total of 1,314,384 square feet. The building’s east and west wings flank a central section where the two-story auditorium and two-story gymnasium are located. Hallways on the floors going to the west and east towers were installed with fire doors for extra protection. Except for a portion of the first floor, where the offices and the cafeteria is located, all floors of the two wings have classrooms, storage areas, bathrooms and lockers. Bathrooms are located in the same location on all the floors with the girl’s bathrooms on the east wing and the boy’s bathrooms on the west wing. When completed, the new building was connected by a corridor to the Coolidge Building at the north end of the west wing on the first floor.
Only the east wing of the school was built first and was used as a Junior High school through much of the 1920s and 1930s. In 1927, President Calvin Coolidge used the 1913 high school for his office during his visit to the Black Hills. It was called the “Summer Capitol.” During the summer of 1927, President Coolidge announced to reporters from the steps of the Rapid City High School, that he would not run for a second term. The Building was called both the Rapid City High School and Coolidge High for several years after his visit. In 1936, the building that began in 1923 was finished and becomes the new Rapid City High School. It was the only public high school in the city until a second building was completed in 1969.
In 1953, the shop building was constructed near the southwest corner of the new high school, tucked between the old Washington elementary school (on its west) and the Coolidge building (on its north). In 1967, a new boys gymnasium was constructed as a separate building located to the east of the high school.
In 1954, the Rapid City school system had 6,684 students enrolled and in six years the enrollment doubled, because of the missile build up at the air base. In 1968 there were 12,750 students making Rapid City the second largest school system in South Dakota. While a new high school was being built, the graduating class of 1968 had split sessions in order to handle the number of students.
In 1969, a second public high school was opened in Rapid City. Located on the west side of town, Stevens High School was constructed to accommodate the growing student population. The new school was occupied following Thanksgiving in 1969 and at that time, the Rapid City High School officially became known as Rapid Central High School. The old Washington and Coolidge school buildings were victims to fire and demolition in 1970. In the early 1970's, Central High School was deeded inadequate for continued use as a high school.
The population was still growing and classes were spread out to several buildings near the school and downtown. In 1974, the city passed a bond measure to build a new Central High School at a site north of downtown on the north side of Rapid Creek. The class of 1976 was the last to graduate from the Rapid City High School building. Classes in the new Central High School began in the fall of 1976. In 1977, the old Rapid City School building would become a junior high school. At that time, the windows were replaced, the skylights were removed and the building was “Modernized” and renamed Dakota Junior High School. In 1993 the building changed again when our school system switched to a middle school structure.
Currently, the old Rapid City High School has come full circle when it took back its original name in 2013. The building again underwent several renovations for an improved educational environment as well as a cultural Center. The newly remodeled theater is the home for the Black Hills symphony orchestra and theater groups. The high school is a smaller learning facility with a better student teacher ratio. The trimester schedule allows students to accelerate or recover needed credits. Students can participate in all sports and activities at their home high school (Central or Stevens) while attending Rapid City High School.