Gila River Indian Community students begin school year amid pandemic

Emma Hughes
Gila River Indian News


Schools in the Community have begun to resume and have made the adjustments for students to begin distance learning. After many concerns about school resuming due to the pandemic and its impact to the Community, Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis addressed the topic in a video update on the Gila River Indian Community’s Facebook page on July 26. 


“We will not return to in-person classes until we can be assured it is safe for our children, teachers and staff to return to school. Our children will not be sent back to school campuses until the virus is under control and it’s safe to send them back to school,” said Lewis in the update. He also stated that a meeting with the schools had been arranged to review their plans for distance learning and those plans will be sent to Community Council for their review and approval. Lewis stated that the Community will continue to work with the schools assist them with any resources needed for at-home learning. Teachers and staff have been preparing for their new online classes and students have been issued laptops and tablets.


Blackwater Community School students were issued laptops and iPads to begin virtual learning on July 22. The school did share an overall successful start, despite some technical issues. Staff is available for any assistance with the devices issued to students. Blackwater Community School shared that their brand-new school campus will be ready for moving-in during the week of October 12, 2020. The new campus will feature a cafeteria and K-5 classrooms located in two double-story buildings.

Casa Blanca Community School began their distance learning online Aug. 3. Issuing internet hotspot jetpacks and iPads that have been pre-programmed and ready for students to use. Support and training for families is available online and a new “parent portal” has been developed for parents and guardians to see how their child is doing on their school work. 


Virtual classes also began for Gila Crossing Community School on Aug. 3. Students were issued Chromebooks for their online learning. GCCS had been offering “meals on wheels” for students and families in the Community since March to aid during the coronavirus pandemic. Breakfast and lunch meals were provided and as of July 15, the “meals on wheels” had provided 100,734 meals to students and families in the Community. As school begins, those meals will now be limited to students. 


Sacaton School District will start their online learning Aug.10. Students received laptops and parents can also access their child’s grades and other data about their work online. Schools in the Community also held virtual open houses before beginning classes and most schools have kept their students and families updated through the school’s website or social media pages.