District History

The Sauk Rapids-Rice Schools serve all or parts of the communities of Sauk Rapids and Rice in central Minnesota. With three elementary schools (K–5), one middle school (6–8), a high school (9–12) and one additional school building housing our Early Childhood and Adult Basic Education programs, the district serves over 4,500 students.

Our school district provides a personalized approach to learning for all students through quality programming and a caring and competent staff. Sauk Rapids and Rice residents play an important role in the education of our children and are genuinely engaged, attentive, and part of everyday activities. Together, we prepare all children for the future as evidenced through successful post-secondary experiences, career preparedness and their continued and positive contributions made throughout central Minnesota.

Sauk Rapids-Rice Schools have an outstanding reputation in Minnesota and beyond. Our students, personnel and district have been recognized for their excellence by earning numerous local, state and national awards.

History of Sauk Rapids-Rice


The first public school on record (1858) in Sauk Rapids stood where the C.E. Bell residence was built and had no school bell. J.C Hicks and Jeremiah Russell secured the services of Mr. Fletcher and Ed Hall to remove the bell from the gristmill. Although the bell would be removed in 1870 and returned at a later date, it was destroyed entirely in the Sauk Rapids cyclone.

In October of 1868, the School Board advised the purchase of three sites for schoolhouses in Sauk Rapids, one of which is to be in the center of the population. In early 1869, it was decided that a brick or granite grade school would be erected, yet it wasn’t until January of 1872 that the building was finished and students started.

Historic photo of Russell School 1896


The voters of School District #3 voted to reorganize the school as an independent school district. J.A. Senn was elected as Superintendent and by December enrollment was reported as follows: 44 in the high school, 40 in first intermediate, 41 in second intermediate, 51 in first primary, and 69 in second primary for a total of 245 students.

An early closing in April of 1886 due to lack of funds, likely saved many lives since the school was demolished in the April 14th cyclone along with the Village of Sauk Rapids.

On May 15, 1886, voters decided to build a new school using bonds not to exceed $10,000. The school would be similar in size to the previous structure, consisting of “seven large, well lighted, ventilated, and conveniently arranged rooms.” The school consisted of 6 departments, with each department taking care of 2 grades making a total of 12 grades available.


In January, 1896, the schoolhouse that was built in 1886 was destroyed by fire. In April, a contract was awarded to F.F. Grams in Minneapolis to build the new schoolhouse. This building was named “Russell School” and is shown in the photo.

Russell School 1926 with boys out front
historic photo of Russell School 1911


SCHOOL GROUNDS BEING BEAUTIFIED Harry Schmid has Aroused Gardening Spirit in Pupils at Russell

The pupils of Russell School under the direction of Prof. Harry Schmid, have taken t upon themselves to beautify, as far as possible, their school grounds and during the last month have greatly enhanced the looks of the front of the building. The area between the old and new sections of the building have been spaded up, enriched and leveled and entirely planted with flowers that have been donated to a large extent.

A considerable quantity of waste granite blocks that for many months have been laying on the high school grounds were hauled to Russell and with these a retaining wall was built between the two buildings separating the flower bed from the rest of the grounds. Other work will be undertaken by the boys as rapidly as time permits.

With the spring rains the sod on the high school terraces is getting green and those grounds are rapidly becoming the most beautiful of any section of the city. The flat spots on the terrace have been seeded with grass and this already beginning to come up. The big athletic field at the rear of the school will be seeded to oats to begin with and after the first early cutting, grass with be substituted.

The Sauk Rapids Sentinel 25 Apr 1929

Russell School underwent renovations in 1924 and 1925, however by 1926 it was determined that a new high school was needed. In May of 1927 an election was held to gain permission. It passed with 420 yea and 324 nay votes and construction began on Hillside (High) School at 30 Fourth Avenue South, Sauk Rapids, MN. Upon it’s completion  a newspaper headline in August of 1928 called Hillside “one of the most modern in design and construction in the state” that featured mobile seating (pullout bleachers) and a gym, auditorium and assembly combined into one.

Hillside was partially damaged in 1935 due to fire, but the building was restored and classes continued.  In 1957, the state changed district numbers and the District became Independent School District #47 and by mid 1958 the District was again exploring construction of a new High School building.

historic photo of hillside school 1928


In 1960 a new Sauk Rapids Senior High School was built at 901 First Street South in Sauk Rapids and the Hillside building was converted into an elementary school to hold grades 1–6. An addition in 1967 at the High School was needed to accommodate the increase in enrollment.

Rendering of Pleasantview Elementary 1968

In 1969, Rice voted to join the Sauk Rapids school district, changing the ISD#47 name to Sauk Rapids-Rice Public Schools. In 1970, Pleasantview was built in it’s current location (1009 Sixth Ave N, Sauk Rapids, MN) for grades 1–3 and eventually grades 7 and 8 as well. This left Hillside Elementary with grades 4–6.

As Pleasantview’s enrollment rose it resulted in Hillside adding an addition for grades 7 and 8 in 1977. Hillside was home to grades 4–8 until 1989 when the then high school added an addition on the south end of the building to house grades 6–8. Hillside became only 4th and 5th grade for a number of years. In 1995 due to further increases in enrollment, Mississippi Heights "Middle School" was built at 1003 South 4th Street, Sauk Rapids, MN moving grades 4 and 5 over from Hillside. 

2001 Rendering of Sauk Rapids-Rice High School

This building remained the middle school until 2003 when the current Sauk Rapids-Rice High School was constructed at 1835 Osauka Road NE, Sauk Rapids, MN.  With the construction of the current high school, existing facilities were converted to accommodate student needs.

Aerial view of high school

Presently Hillside School houses our early childhood and adult education programs. Our three elementary schools, Pleasantview, Mississippi Heights and Rice, serve grades K–5. Sauk Rapids-Rice Middle School serves grades 6-8 and the High School facility continues to house grades 9-12.

Collage of PVES Grand Opening pictures.

In the fall of 2023, Pleasantview Elementary received a new constructed  building on its current and original site (1009 Sixth Ave N. Sauk Rapids, MN). It was important to the community that the new Pleasantiew Elementary School was located on the same block as the previous school and would accommodate the growing student population in the area. 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Benton County Historical Society