Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Interior to reopen schools on Native American reservations

"The federal agency tasked with the oversight of some schools on Native American reservations announced that officials intend to reopen 53 schools they manage in 10 states to the “maximum extent possible” on September 16," Emma Coleman reports for Route Fifty. "The Bureau of Indian Education, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, last week sent out a memo to bureau-operated schools saying that virtual-only learning environments would only be allowed if an outbreak occurred at the school that required a schoolwide shutdown. Though families can opt for distance learning if they want, teachers will be required to teach from the classroom, according to the memo."

Many school districts are offering online-only or other distance learning programs to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, though rural schools are more likely to reopen for in-person learning. But some schools that have resumed in-person classes have been obliged to quickly revert to distance learning after first-week infection spikes.

"Native American reservations have been some of the hardest hit locations during the coronavirus pandemic, becoming early hotspots for the virus in May and June," Coleman reports. "The Navajo Nation at one point had more positive cases per capita than any state in the country, while the disease has torn through other tribes."

Native Americans could also face increased risk from the pandemic because of a higher incidence of underlying health conditions that make them more likely to be hospitalized or die from the virus, along with frequent lack of access to hospitals or health care, Coleman reports.

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