In response to the Blackfeet Reservation’s COVID-19 numbers having decreased, the Browning School District has developed a “hybrid” model for moving into a different phase of restrictions. Under this model, some staff would be coming into the buildings two days per week on a rotating basis. While distance learning will continue, this will allow teachers to utilize their classrooms in providing that education. Those with conditions that would endanger their health would still be allowed to work from home.

Superintendent Corrina Guar-dipee-Hall said the plan will be presented to the School Board. “We’ll start making plans for blended learning before or after Christmas, depending on the numbers and recommendations of the Board,” she said.

The principals of all the school buildings in the district have plans in place as well as Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in all the buildings to serve the staff, and later if possible, students returning to in-person instruction. When and if the plans are approved, Hall said additional time should be figured into the equation to give the staff time for training in PPE and other COVID-related topics.

As for distance learning so far this school year, Hall sais, “It was good for those who were online and had equipment.” Problems arose with equipment in the younger age levels, specifically K-3 and sixth grade, in having too few iPads to go around. Now, however, all the students in the District should have iPads, but if that is not the case with a particular student, Hall recommends they contact the school to pick one up. In addition to the iPads, Hall said the District has provided some 450 Jet Packs through Verizon for internet access.

While those numbers are encouraging, Hall notes the “level of engagement” has dropped from a high of around 70% last spring to around 50% now, levels she says the District hopes to improve. Currently a survey is circulating among parents looking for ways to improve distance learning, the results of which will also be presented to the Board.

As for winter sports, Hall said, “It all depends on the Tribal Council and the Board.” No decisions will be made until individual plans for each sport, submitted to Incident Command on Monday, Nov. 16, have been approved. When and if that occurs, the topic will be raised at a special Board meeting for final approval.

“I want to say prayers for the community and the people we lost,” Hall said. “My heart is with the kids, and we will do everything we can to provide the best education as possible in a safe environment.”

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