“We’re hoping that when the logistics are done, there will be an increase – there will be more vaccinations,” Browning Superintendent Corrina Guardipee-Hall said of plans for a safe school year. She notes that for students eligible to be vaccinated (those 12 and older), the Blackfeet Tribe is offering $250 per shot for enrolled members, and the same amount is available for non-member Reservation resident students through the Southern Piegan Health Center.
For those under the age of 12, that is, for the elementary students, plans are to continue observing safety protocols.
“Everyone wears masks,” the Superintendent said, “and our staff is 98 percent vaccinated.”
Sanitization stations are located throughout the schools, as well as hand washing facilities, she said, and social distancing is being practiced “as much as possible.”
In addition, attendance rules have been relaxed for now, with no punishments being allowed for missing school.
“If they feel sick, they should stay at home, both parents and students,” Guardipee-Hall said. “We will work with them.”
Some parents of students under 12, she said, are asking about having their children served through distance learning. One way to access that service, she said, is by means of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and if their students qualify, they can get an accommodation for remote learning due to medical reasons. If other reasons apply, she said Assistant Superintendent Dennis Juneau should be contacted to develop a modified plan for remote learning status.
Everyone who qualifies for remote learning will receive an iPad and Jet-pack. In addition, she said the District is working with Siyeh Development for a discount rate for internet service.
As for fall sports, “I’m proud of the students and the percentage of athletes who are vaccinated,” Guardipee-Hall said. “Fans are being allowed at events, but if they’re not vaccinated we’re asking them to wear a mask.”
Everyone under 12 must wear a mask, she said, and to socially distance as much as possible. For indoor sports like volleyball, everyone must wear a mask, apart from the athletes who are playing.
“We’re doing our best to contact trace, and we have some of the best people in the community at Browning Schools for that job,” Guardipee-Hall said
“The kids are happy and the teachers are glad to see them, as well as the remote learners,” she said. “The most important thing is our relationship with the students in helping their self identity through their culture, whatever that culture is.”
With clubs and sports beginning again, the Superintendent notes Browning Schools can represent a safe place for kids to go, where the staff is nearly entirely vaccinated and safety protocols are being followed.
Currently, Browning Schools employs around 428 staff members who serve more than 2,000 students.