NESPELEM - Colville Tribal Head Start Program Manager Jeanie Kent met with the Colville Business Council’s Education and Employment Committee, Oct. 19, noting in-person schooling could potentially begin in Keller and Inchelium Nov. 2 and in Omak and Nespelem Nov. 16.

Under a hybrid model, the individual sites would have groups, or pods, of eight or less students who would stick together throughout the days, keeping the Tribal Head Start centers in compliance with Colville Tribal public health regulations that prohibit groups of more than 10, according to Kent.

With 26 students currently enrolled, the Inchelium site would develop four individual pods and provide each pod  in-person instruction two days and online learning two days each week. With seven students enrolled in Keller, the Keller location would provide in person learning four days each week, said Kent.

In order to provide staff with time to become accustomed to new COVID-19 protocols, neither Keller nor Inchelium would provide transportation to start, said Kent, who noted in Inchelium 15 of the 21 families said they would be able to transport their students to school and in Keller six of the seven said they could transport their students.

In Omak and Nespelem, plans are still being developed but the general hybrid structure will be similar to Inchelium and Keller, said Kent, who clarified that the current plans include transportation for students once the schools starts, Nov. 16.

“The plan is that the kids that are being transported will be transported by the teaching staff they will be with all day,” said Kent. “It won’t be a separated bus driver that brings them and have others take over. This will allow the pods to stay together and consistency. We are trying to minimize the contact as much as possible.”

Kent further noted each center has maintained current staffing numbers, which provides for additional staff to clean and sanitize after use in each area.

Head Start teaching staff are expected to contact families on the details.

To date, the Head Start programs had all been working through distance learning.

Kent noted Tribal Head Start had purchased a program to add to their current curriculum to improve long distancing learning opportunities for students. Along with videos and short, two-minute learning opportunities, teachers have also delivered packets and picked them up weekly, developed learning videos on social media and held Zoom meetings for students to meet their teachers.

“These are little guys,” said Kent. “It’s not like they’ve been in school for four years and know who the teacher is. Our teachers are doing as much as they can and staying as safe as they can. It really varies by district, how much is digital. We have some teachers even going to homes and doing activities with students in their front yards. There is a certain amount of observation we have to do. We are trying to improve their kids learning, so for example, if we never see how they hold a pencil, how do we know what to send home to parents to get that skill? If they’re having trouble holding a pencil because their hand isn’t strong enough, then we are likely going to send home play dough … It’s been a real struggle. Teachers want to help as much as they can, but first they have to see where the students are at and what they are doing now.”

Tribal Head Start has further issued letters to families noting health protocols that will be in place.

Those protocols include:

1. Staff and child who present any COVID-19 like symptoms must stay home.

2. All staff and children will be encouraged to wear face masks.

3. All staff and children will be screened by taking their temperature with a non-touch thermometer.

4. Children will be instructed on proper hand washing techniques.

5. All centers will follow CDC guidelines for cleaning and sanitizing.

6. Visitors and parents will not be allowed in centers.

7. Social distancing of 6 feet will be practiced.

“Everybody wants the families to know that if their kids are sick, if they have any COVID-like symptoms, they should just stay home to make this work,” said Kent. “We all need to be respectful of each other and make sure we are keeping each other safe. We want the kids here. We want them to learn. We want them to be ready for kindergarten. But we don’t want our families sick. We don’t want our kids sick. We don’t want our staff sick.

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