More Navajo Nation schools could reopen as virus wanes

Coronavirus New Mexico

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) – Colton Holian’s dog didn’t eat his homework, the Wi-Fi did.

“Half of my assignments go but the other half don’t,” says Holian, 13, who has been virtually attending Navajo Nation’s Tohatchi Middle School for the past month. Holian loves school, especially math, and was getting As and Bs last year.

Now his teachers tell his grandmother that he’s getting Cs and Ds. He’s at risk of failing physical education which, like all of his classes, are taught online.

“Right now I know my grandson ain’t learning nothing,” says grandmother Andrea Thomas, a data extractor at a medical facility.

Thomas has to commute because the internet at her and Holian’s home is not reliable enough for her to work remotely, as some of her colleagues do. Like her working, she thinks that in-person school is worth the risk for children like Holian.

“I think we need to have our kids going back to school,” Thomas said Thursday. Holian, a sixth-grader, won’t be allowed into a classroom for the foreseeable future.

But his younger cousins could start school as soon as Monday. On Friday, the Public Education Department gave the green light for schools in McKinley County, which includes Tohatchi Middle School.

The PED started allowing children from kindergarten through fifth grade to return to school in some districts in a hybrid model on Sept. 8.

This week, the PED started reporting COVIID-19 cases linked to schools, including one case of a student in McKinley County.

The grade of the student was not released. They would have been part of a special education program or a kindergarten through third-grade class that was allowed to start in small groups, according to PED spokeswoman Deborah Martinez.

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