(Wind River Reservation, WY) – All four reservation schools – St. Stephens, Fort Washakie, Wyoming Indian, and Arapahoe Charter – met with Wind River Family and Community Health Care providers on January 20th to determine if they could safely reopen.
Meeting attendees included school superintendents, administrators, school nurses, the Director of Eastern Shoshone Tribal Health David Meyers, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Ebbert, Dr. Kaplan, and Dr. Mook, according to St. Stephens Superintendent Franklin No Runner.
“The Health Professionals examined all of the Indigenous school’s Smart Start Reopening Plans that have been submitted to the Wyoming Department of Education (WDE) and Bureau of Indian Education (BIE),” No Runner said. “Dr. Ebbert stated that the school plans they reviewed are the best in the state and plans to file the pertinent paperwork to Wind River Inter-Tribal Council (WRITC) approving the plans for schools to reopen.”
All reservation schools need a letter signed by both the Eastern Shoshone Tribal Chairman and the Northern Arapaho Tribal Chairman that states the schools can reopen, according to No Runner. School superintendents also learned that the most recent reservation-wide Stay-at-Home Order issued on January 3, 2021, excluded schools. Allowing the school district’s board of trustees to make a decision to reopen. At this time, County 10 has not received the latest order to share with the community.
After discussion with the WDE and BIE, both funding oversight agencies for the reservation schools confirmed a letter is needed from the WRITC because the State of Wyoming and Tribes of the Wind River Indian Reservation have a government-to-government relationship. The discussion also focused on reopening schools in Tier II which can be different at each school.
“Tier II is a combination of in-person and virtual instruction, school houses are open to some students,” according to St. Stephens Administrator Macey Mortimore.
For St. Stephens, it means that students will attend school two days in-person and two days virtual at home. School nutrition and instruction materials will still be delivered for students at home.
“Parents will have the option to keep their student on 100 percent virtual learning,” according to No Runner. “We have contacted each and every parent/guardian to ask this important question.”
The current K-12 enrollment at St. Stephens is 246 students, which is down from 270 students last school year. Of those currently enrolled, 80 percent of parents/guardians stated they would definitely send their student(s) to school if St. Stephens would re-open. Parents have also transferred students due to the school closures to border town reservation schools.
“We will work with each and every parent/guardian on their school choice of coming back or staying at home on a situational basis,” he continued. “We will do our best to be the safest we can during this pandemic, schools have always been the safest place for students.”
St. Stephens HS Principal Matt Mortimore and K-8 Principal Greg Juneau shared if allowed to reopen St. Stephens will take next week Jan. 25 – 29, 2021 for the Administrative Leadership Team to prepare. All staff and only staff would return for two weeks to plan, prepare, and practice safety guidelines for reopening during the two weeks of February 1 – 12, 2021. Students will then board the busses on the morning of Monday, February 15, 2020. This is all dependent if the Stay-at-Home order is lifted for schools with a letter. If the WRITC extends the order schools will return to full-time virtual learning.
Today, January 21st reservation superintendents, doctors from Wind River Cares, and the WRITC will meet at 3:00 pm concerning the current developments, No Runner explained.
He asks parents/guardians to review school websites, and school Facebook pages this evening for an update. To review school Smart Start Plans please contact the front offices or the school’s websites.
Fremont County School District #14 also shared an update on school reopening to a hybrid setting. Click here to read the latest for Wyoming Indian Schools.