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Tribal school bridges digital divide and education gaps during COVID-19

Chief Leschi Schools

Puyallup, WA

Serving over 600 students from more than 90 local tribes, Chief Leschi school is the largest tribal school in Washington state. The disruptive nature of the pandemic forced the schools to take a new approach to decrease gaps in their community's digital divide and ensure equal access to distanced learning.

Topics Covered

Digital Divide
Workforce & Education

Cost

Initial: Zero Upfront Cost

Funding

Federal grants

Project Status

Operational since 2019

Gov Champion

Chief Leschi School District

Problem Addressed

The state's largest tribal school needed to close opportunity gaps with increased access to technology.

The Chief Leschi campus serves over 600 students from more than 90 different tribes in the region, representing the largest tribal school in Washington state. However, the campus's remoteness and rugged terrain makes the commute challenging, forcing many students to commute on hour-long bus rides to and from the campus.

Even before COVID-19 emerged, the school was already looking to implement technology to better serve its students. “We knew we were missing some opportunities—not time for direct instruction, necessarily, but time for students to do their homework,” said superintendent Marc Brouillet.

Originally, the campus planned to issue mobile devices to students and equip buses with Wi-Fi over the course of three years. But in March 2020, the campus was required to immediately shift to remote learning and remain until the end of the school year. One challenge of shifting to digital learning was that many students didn't have the necessary devices to do online schooling, and those that did often lacked Wi-Fi access.

Solutions Used

The school collaborated with Verizon to provide students with necessary mobile hotspots and remote connectivity.

For Chief Leschi schools' Chief academic officer, Jeannine Medvedich, "Remote learning was not simply about offering education continuity. It was about equity." This placed critical importance on ensuring the entire community had access to their online courses.

Although Verizon was already providing cellular service to the schools, Verizon offered additional technical support from the very beginning of the pandemic. They equipped familiar without Wi-Fi with necessary mobile hotspots and provided remote connectivity with 4G LTE on remote learning devices and unlimited data plans to students without home Wi-Fi.

“Verizon gave us flexibility in purchasing the hotspots and then activating them based on our need. That was what really created a level playing field for us,” Medvedich said.

Outcomes

1

Reliable internet for all students, ensuring that students are able to participate in class without losing precious education time.

2

Students were able to access their school curriculum online from their homes, decreasing exposure to COVID in the school.

3

Teachers have increased visibility over their students' performance, allowing them to interpret patterns and undercover underlying issues to individualize educational approaches.

4

Increased connectivity between students and teachers, with more flexible communication options.

Something Unique

The Chief Leschi school was invited by the US Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Education to present on its learnings during its digital transformation to more than 50 tribal schools.

Who Should Consider

Communities looking to increase internet accessibility and bridge gaps in the digital divide.

Last Updated

Mar 23rd, 2022

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