Press "Enter" to skip to content

Oldham-Ramona and Rutland Consolidate, Vote on $18.8M Bond Issue for Unified School Building Sept. 12

The number of public school districts in South Dakota has dropped from 149 to 148, as Oldham-Ramona and Rutland have officially consolidated. The two schools have been doing sports and prom together for some time, so merging classroom activities shouldn’t be too hard of a transition.

Last year, Rutland ranked 125th statewide in enrollment with 189 students in pre-K through grade 12. Oldham-Ramona ranked 138th with 157 kids. The Department of Education will count official enrollment for the 2023–2024 school year at the end of September, but based on last year’s enrollment, the new Oldham-Ramona-Rutland school district would rank 81st in enrollment, nearly matching Howard, Kimball, and Alcester-Hudson in size and surpassing nearby Castlewood, DeSmet, Arlington, and Colman-Egan.

Curiously, the new district is still offering K-12 classes at both of its buildings, in Ramona and Rutland. District voters will decide next month if they want to spend $18.8 million to build a new unified school building on Highway 81:

…the district is holding a bond election Sept. 12 for the district’s more than 700 voters to decide if a new $18.8 million K-12 school should open by fall 2025.

District officials hope to purchase about 20 acres of land near U.S. Highway 81 and Nunda Corner to build the new school on, [ORR school board president Lance] Hageman said. It will be up to the district’s stakeholders to decide what to do with the old school buildings when a new one is built.

If the bond passes, taxes in Rutland will remain about the same because of an opt-out the district had before it consolidated, Hageman explained. Taxes in the old Oldham-Ramona district would likely go up, he added, to about $1.03 per $1,000 valuation.

If the bond doesn’t pass, the district would need to consider continuing to update and fix the buildings it already has that could fail or be condemned, which doesn’t make fiscal sense, according to the district’s consolidation document [Morgan Matzen, “Two of South Dakota’s Smallest School Districts Are Consolidating. Here’s Why,” Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 2023.08.11].

ORR will hold a community meeting to discuss the new building proposal on August 28 at 6 p.m. at the DSU Tunheim Building in Madison. That’s also the deadline for registering to vote in the ORR bond election.


  1. Rambler 2023-08-14 11:28

    As a Rutland grad, I wish them well on getting a bond issue passed. 60% approval minimum needed is an achievement in the best of circumstances; consolidation vote passed with just over the 50% minimum.

  2. P. Aitch 2023-08-14 12:15

    A beautiful part of my family heritage is still in Oldham and at least 15 good friends here in the city moved from Ramona in the late 70’s.
    Bigger than Arlington, now? Wow! That’s fantastic.
    PS – Castlewood Sucks, always has

  3. Arlo Blundt 2023-08-14 16:18

    Oldham was known as “The Little Brick Town on the Prairie”. After a wildfire burned most of the business district in the early days, the merchants rebuilt their Main Street in brick, unusual for a town that size, and, I believe, many of these buildings remain standing. Oldham was home, for many years, to the South Dakota Amateur Basketball Tournament which featured many college players and high school stars from the recent past.

    Ramona was the football and basketball powerhouse of the area, appearing several times in the B tournament in the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Rutland took great pride in it’s education programs at the Rutland School. Though it’s school census shrunk dangerously low in the 70’s, and the town was down to a grain elevator, feed store, bar and restaurant, and population of the town was always barely in the triple digits, Rutland hung on serving the rural population which later saw families from Madison and Brookings move to the area to enjoy country living.

  4. P. Aitch 2023-08-14 16:56

    Well said, Arlo. Our family business on Main Street, housing our butcher shop, was brick as was the home of the family Matriarch. My friends from Ramona often spoke highly of their participation on sports teams and even of the Bickett family of basketball and football referees and officials.

  5. jad 2023-08-14 19:14

    That 1.00 per thousand means a tax increase of at least $640 for 160 acres of land. Half the students are open enrolled and most will have double the transportation distance. Nice to remember the past(I grew up in Oldham) but economic realities say defeat the bond and dissolve the district.

  6. P. Aitch 2023-08-14 20:52

    @jad – You’re closer to the situation of what farmers would have to pay and whether they should or shouldn’t vote for the bond.
    I have zero credibility in any opinions on how to vote and nobody from Oldham/Ramona/Rutland cares what I think about the vote, anyway.

  7. jakc 2023-08-15 18:05

    does anyone know what the enrollment of these schools was in the 70s?

  8. BHSD76 2023-08-16 18:31

    I went and looked at the total price of the proposal and it’s about $30 million. The opt-out is for the $18.8 million they are short. Combined they have about 350 students, but it appears enrollment is continuing to decline. From the little I have looked into this, a pretty good chunk of that 350 number is from open enrollment. The building is going to be built in the middle of the district on Highway 81 so it doesn’t do anything to save these little towns. In fact, once the attendance centers leave the towns they’ll shrink more.

    I’m not a taxpayer in the district, but that plan doesn’t make sense to me. At best, this consolidation could make it 10 years before they need to consolidate again or just dissolve the district and split up the land to neighboring districts. If they only have a few years left a $30 million building that could go dark in a decade is not worth it. I love rural areas, but face it, they are dying. My advice for now is put the K-5 in one building and 6-12 in the other. Run it until it’s no longer feasible and either dissolve the district or consolidate with Colman-Egan.

  9. Algebra 2023-08-16 21:00

    There was a time when the Superintendent of Schools was a county job, with only one Superintendent per county, no matter how many schools or students were in the county. Each school had a principal, and none of them had vice principals.
    Some places are still organized that way.

  10. jakc 2023-09-14 00:11

    I see the bond issue failed, with opponents arguing that the new school would close before the bonds were paid off. Such is rural Dakota these days, despite all the talk (and the votes for politicians who make that talk) about the strength of the economy and growth in the state. Perhaps a school halfway between two towns was never a good idea, but will parents with kids really move to a small town without schools?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.