Red Cloud school goes digital

Published: Mar. 26, 2020 at 5:40 PM CDT
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The Red Cloud Indian School is ahead of the curve in getting kids online.

"We had already done our surveys and we already know how many of our kids had internet so really, for us, it was just, we pre-planned and when push came to shove we were ready," said Superintendent Moria Coomes

When the rest of the school systems in the state shutdown for a week, Red Cloud shutdown for two days then resumed class online for students between 3rd grade and 12th grade. The first fully online day was Wednesday, March 18. It is a feat many schools are still trying to accomplish.

"It's definitely a challenge," said science teacher Isaac Piepszowski. "The way that I run my class is typically very hands on and experimental. I can pre-record me running through a lab and then it will pause at certain points in the video and the student has to think critically about what's going on."

While it is not ideal, they are all in it together.

"As good as it is, it is not as good as being in the classroom, but it's a lot better than not being in school, not having anything." Coomes said. "It's a lot better than packets."

"Their learning matters to us and we are walking with them, so trying to do that while we are all digital and at a distance is a great creative challenge for us to keep up," said teacher Aaron Pierre.

The school was already heavily using technology and almost every student already had a laptop, still the system is not without its hiccups.

Chris Smith is the assistant principal of academics and said they had a handful of students with internet issues.

"We have been working with different companies to get hot spots to that small group of students that had access issues," Smith said. Even with internet issues, the school reports attendance in the 90 percents.

With many of the problems worked out, the school on the Pine Ridge Reservation has become one of the first in the state to keep kids in class while at home. The e-learning has created a new teacher-student dynamic.

"I have to tell students not to turn on their mics while they are eating cereal in the morning," said teacher Roger White Eyes. "Sometimes the kids don't even get out of their beds."

"We have met a lot of family pets," Piepszowski said.

Red Cloud has a few advantages that allowed it to make this move so quickly. Two of the bigger factors are that they are a private school and they don't have special education, which is a big hurdle for public schools.