The Nespelem School sign alongside Highway 155.

Nespelem – In all parts of the world, schools are facing numerous challenges.

The challenge of course is in keeping students safe, healthy and actively engaged in learning – while trying to provide hope things will eventually get better.

The small Nespelem School faced these challenges and more: their K-8 students were up against technological challenges at the beginning of this school year. 

A handful of students had access to technology and Wi-Fi but a majority did not, expressed Effie Dean, Principal and Superintendent of Nespelem School District.

She knew that something had to be done.

“So we really attacked that and wound up getting enough Chromebooks for every family at the beginning of the school year,” Dean said.  “So now pretty much every kiddo has a Chromebook they can use at home.”

Not only did students get set up with Chromebooks, they also got another necessity.

“We also have hotspots that we’ve given out to families,” said Dean. “That really does help the quality of the Wi-Fi.”

Not only does the hotspot help the quality of the Wi-Fi, which in turns gives students a faster Internet, it also helps the wallets of many families in the community.

“A lot of families just don’t have the money to hook up to the services, so that takes care of that,” says Dean. “We have most of the families covered.”

Providing the Chromebooks along with the hotspots was one of the main goals for Dean and the Nespelem School board.

“That was our number one priority,” she said. “Once we decided we needed to stay remote, the next thing was to make sure if we were going to do it, do it well. Every family had a Chromebook at the beginning of the year so that was huge.”

State funding played a crucial role in all of this.

“We found money from the state and were able to purchase Chromebooks and then we found another grant that pays for hotspots,” said Dean. “And the tribe gave us more Chromebooks, so now every kid has a Chromebook.”

Dean expressed that the school has got lots of help and assistance not only from the state but from the Tribes Youth Development Program.

“The youth development team has been a huge help,” said Dean as the program provides a number of services, from tutoring to checking in on kids to incentives for students.

“If we haven’t been able to contact someone, we turn their name over to the CCT team and they’ve been able to get ahold of a lot people, helping them get involved with the kiddos,” Dean says. “So that has been a huge help.”

Despite a pandemic that’s altered their normal way of schooling and way of life, the students of Nespelem haven’t expressed signs of slowing down – but it’s taken a team effort said Dean.

“Not just the teachers, I feel like the whole staff has really pulled together and really tried to support the community and students the best they could. We are very proud of how hard our students and families have worked during this pandemic,” says Dean.

Nespelem is scheduled to start a hybrid sort of model on March 24. Currently all students are receiving remote learning as parents have different options they can chose from.

Option 1:

Parents can choose hard packets and the school deliveries those with breakfast and lunch everyday.

“For the younger kids, that seems to work best and what most parents want,” says Dean.

Option 2:

A second option for students is Google Classroom, a virtually setting where teachers have all of their material on.

“So they’re using their regular math materials and regular reading materials just in Google classroom,” Dead said.

Option 3:

The third option primarily deals with the kiddos in K-2.

“They’re using Seesaw, to post their materials just because it’s more user friendly for the younger kiddos,” says Dean. “We also purchased a full curriculum called Accelerate, they can go in and use that if it’s easier. We still encourage them to use zoom meetings.”

When students return March 23, families will have the option to remain in remote learning, and the return to school will be staged.

Hybrid Learning Model:

Step One: The youngest grades will start first for three weeks, with start time running from 8 am

to 2 pm:

● K-2 : Cohort A Mondays, Cohort B Wednesdays

Step Two: These grades will be added three weeks later if there are no outbreaks in the school:

● 3 -4 : Cohort A Mondays, Cohort B Wednesdays

Step Three: These grades will be added three weeks later:

● 5 -8- Cohort A Tuesdays, Cohort B Thursdays

Step Four: After three successful weeks:

● K-4 - All students Mondays & Wednesdays

● 5-8– All students Tuesdays & Thursdays

Step Five: The final three weeks:

● All students (K-8) Monday through Thursday

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