Rebecca Pettigrew first taught 14 Spearfish students in 1877, in a cabin donated by a citizen. In 1880 Spearfish’s first school building was constructed. Today Spearfish School District serves about 2,200 students, preschool through high school, at four attendance centers and an alternative high school operated by Black Hills Special Services Cooperative.
The district works with an annual budget of about $11 million. Five school board members are elected for three year terms, and school board meetings are scheduled the second Tuesday of each month, 5:30 p.m., at district administration offices, 525 E. Illinois Street. Agendas and minutes can be found online or in the Black Hills Pioneer. The public is invited to attend meetings and many citizens serve on district-wide advisory meetings, or on advisory committees for each attendance center. Working closely with the district is the Spearfish Foundation for Public Education. It invites individuals, businesses, and community organizations to enhance hometown education through gifts of time or resources.
Spearfish School District offers preschool programs. Black Hills Special Services Cooperative coordinates state-funded Birth-To-Three Connections, an early intervention program for infants and toddlers with possible development delays.
Children First is an outreach ministry of the Spearfish United Methodist Church for childcare, preschool, and enrichment kindergarten. The facility is located in the United Methodist Community Outreach Center next to the church and provides quality early childhood education for families in the Northern Black Hills.
Spearfish serves about 2,200 students at five attendance centers within city limits, Spearfish High School, Spearfish Middle School, Creekside Elementary, West Elementary, and Mountain View Elementary. Read more about the Spearfish Schools in the District’s strategic plan.
The city of Spearfish holds the largest enrollment for the county. During the 2015-2016 academic year, the Spearfish School District's fall enrollment was 2,238 in grades K-12. With a 0.3 percent dropout rate, the district graduated 152 students. A hundred and three students took the ACT exam. The average composite score was 22.9. To view a statistical profile of funding, student and staff data, see the South Dakota Department of Education's 2015-2016 Profile of Spearfish School District.
According the State of South Dakota's report card, Spearfish's high school graduation rate was 92.0 percent in 2015, slightly higher than the 91.62 percent rate posted in 2014 and higher than the statewide average of 90.05 percent. In the 2015-2016 report card, the high school graduation rate was 98.06 percent, a 6.06 percent increase from 2015.
Lawrence County’s historical commitment to education has had an impact far beyond county borders. In 1883 the territorial legislature established Spearfish Normal School for the purpose of training teachers. The school evolved into Black Hills State University, today South Dakota’s number one producer of teachers. With an enrollment of 4,464, BHSU is a four-year institution that ranks as South Dakota’s third largest university. In addition to preparing teachers in its College of Education and Behavioral Sciences, BHSU offers degrees through its College of Business and Natural Sciences, and College of Liberal Arts. Black Hills State University is the only comprehensive university in western South Dakota.
Other Educational Opportunities
Black Hills Special Services Cooperative, a consortium of 12 Black Hills school districts, operates two secondary alternative schools at Spearfish.
Lawrence County is home to small, private academies for students of all ages, and the state’s department of education supports home schooling. Private academies include: Black Hills Christian Academy and Spearfish Classical Christian Academy.
Since 1976 Northern Hills Training Center in Spearfish has provided vocational and residential education for adults with developmental disabilities. Currently about 130 men and women are served.
News articles related to Spearfish schools’ budget, monthly school board meetings, school activities and other school-related issues can be found at the Black Hills Pioneer, or the Spearfish School District’s website.