Remote learning poses challenges for River Region students

The San Juan School District concluded their second quarter of instruction just ahead of the winter break.

In the River Region, which includes schools in Bluff, Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain, students continue to learn remotely.

Reporting on the second quarter numbers, Assistant Superintendent Christy Fitzgerald explained that COVID-19 continues to impact education in the river region communities.

Fitzgerald reports that many students are dealing with grief and loss as they mourn the death of family members. Additional challenges include some families being without work, and students being unable to meet with educators.

In the first part of the school year, students would sometimes go to one-on-one sessions with teachers at the school. Those meetings stopped entirely when the Navajo Nation issued a stay-at-home order in November.

All of those issues have contributed to a decrease in students who are on track to pass their classes compared with the first quarter.

While 87 percent of River Region secondary students were on track to graduate in the first quarter, that number dropped to 77 percent at the end of the second quarter.

The district says they usually see a similar dip around the second quarter, in part due to the winter break. Despite that, administrators and teachers at the schools are working to bring those numbers up.

Superintendent Ron Nielson reports that as soon as students are allowed to come back to school buildings by Navajo Nation education officials, the district plans to do the same.

One way the River Region schools have found success is through implementing capstone projects that incorporate multiple disciplines of learning.

Results of the project include the fence mural outside of Whitehorse High School and collecting family interviews in Monument Valley.

Fitzgerald says the capstones have been successful because they give students choice, and they’ve also been tied to the culture, with many families getting involved in the project.

“We had more students participate in that capstone project than any other learning [program] that we’ve seen,” Fitzgerald explained. “So it’s really determining the ways that we can align the standards with real world application.”

Additional challenges persist with many students lacking the ability to access the internet. The district’s Local Area Network (LAN) project continues to roll out but is not quite fully operational.

Federal CARES Act funds were set to expire at the end of 2020, with an extension granted while the district works to renegotiate their contract with Solatek, the company installing and providing service to the project.

River Region households that want to know if their location will be part of the LAN project can text a google map pin of their location to 833-223-8374.

The number can also be used to send and receive texts to answer questions about the project.

San Juan Record

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