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RTR to break ground on new K-12 school

TYLER — The RTR School District will have a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday, one that marks a major milestone for RTR as well as a large rural two-state area along the Upper Midwest’s Buffalo Ridge.

The district will officially break ground for its new K-12 campus on the west end of Tyler. The event is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday at the school site, located on Lincoln County Road 8 at the west end of the city.

Voters in the RTR School District approved construction last winter in a referendum by a substantial margin. The new school will replace three older buildings; the K-5 elementary school in Ruthton, the 6-8 grade junior high in Russell and the senior high for grades 9-12 in Tyler.

“We’ve started to move dirt at the site,” said RTR Superintendent Dave Marlette. “The groundbreaking is an opportunity for the public to see what’s been started and look ahead to our potential.”

The new campus is scheduled to open in the fall of the 2021-22 school year. The current Tyler school building is slated for demolition in the summer of 2022.

At that point, the district will trade its current Tyler campus for 140 acres of land on the new school site. The city of Tyler currently plans to convert the current school property to residential housing. Marlette said the transaction is an even land swap with no other exchange of assets.

Marlette said Friday that as part of his groundbreaking speech he’ll emphasize the way many supporters of the RTR District worked together to crate a positive set of long-term educational goals.

“Supporters from throughout the school district made it possible,” Marlette said. “It was much more than just a small group of people. Families from a wide area will be helped by the district’s decision.”

Marlette said the district will leave decisions for the Russell and Ruthton campuses up to each individual community. They will have at least 18 months to propose a viable plan for future ownership or site development.

He added that school district officials are open to any proposal (for public, business-related, or non profit building or site usage) that doesn’t compete with RTR’s education-related mission.

Lincoln County Commissioner Mic VanDeVere, who represents the city of Tyler, informed other commissioners of referendum results as part of his commissioner’s report after last winter’s vote.

He noted how it means, at least for the foreseeable future, that Lincoln County will have two K-12 public schools and four elementary programs serving grades K-6.

The Hendricks district currently has a K-12 program and has a sports pairing with Estelline, South Dakota. Lake Benton operates a K-6 program and tuitions older students to Elkton, South Dakota. Ivanhoe has the same elementary school configuration, then sends its older students to Minneota.

Lincoln County included five high schools until the late 1980s. They were located in Tyler, Lake Benton, Ivanhoe, Hendricks and Verdi.

Tyler Mayor Joan Jagt said last month that the planned land exchange is one of many ways the city wants to assist the RTR district.

“The groundbreaking will be an important day for Tyler and for everyone who believes in RTR,” Jagt said. “We as a city are ready to work with the district in any way we can.”

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