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Learn and Grow in the Midst of a Public Health Crisis

June 01, 2020

Red Cloud Indian School

Red Cloud Students Learn and Grow in the Midst of a Public Health Crisis. May 29, 2020

When South Dakota announced its first cases of COVID-19, Red Cloud's teachers and administrators came together to take action. Instead of closing, they made the decision to launch a full distance learning program for all grades, kindergarten through high school.

Together as a team, Red Cloud’s school administrators developed a plan to teach students everything from biology and social studies to Lakȟóta language without ever stepping onto campus. Teachers came together for two long days of training and preparation, and developed lesson plans that could be used for online learning. And on Wednesday, March 18, distance learning at Red Cloud was launched.

Providing Healthy Meals

One of the biggest hurdles in launching distance learning was finding a way to continue to provide fresh, nourishing breakfasts and lunches to Red Cloud students, who live many miles apart across the reservation and depend on school meals. For Moira Coombs, Red Cloud’s Superintendent of Schools, it was one of the most critical questions to be answered. “The big part of this effort is about education, but we all know that school is not just about the academic part—it’s about the social and community support as well. We really needed to determine how to make sure our students stayed nourished.”

A plan was developed to use Red Cloud’s existing bus routes to deliver lunches. Working together with parish staff, lunch pick-up locations were set at Red Cloud churches across the reservation. Staff came together to train on how to load and deliver lunches while maintaining social distancing requirements, and then hit the road.

“We’re doing this as a team,” said Moira. “The president of Red Cloud is going out and serving. We have our AmeriCorps members engaged, so they are getting their hours in while delivering food to students. And this is allowing us to continue to pay our bus drivers for some routes—which is really important to our community, to keep people employed and on payroll, while we provide an essential service. We’re now providing meals to our own students but also to any child who is in need. It’s taken a lot to organize it, but it’s really working.”

It took a village—but now all Red Cloud students are participating in distance learning, and continuing to learn and grow in the midst of this public health crisis.