By the CUJ
MISSION – More than 680 Chromebooks are being purchased for school-aged tribal members to access the internet as fall classes start with online distance learning from home.
Schools in Umatilla County are starting with online classes in August and September.
The Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation on July 27 passed a motion, and a resolution is expected next week, that authorized spending about $138,000 in federal CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) funding for the Acer Chromebooks.
“The BOT has agreed to use some COVID-19 funds to ensure our tribal student members are prepared to begin the school year with a Chromebook that will help them to be successful in a very different school year,” Kat Brigham, Chair of the BOT, said in a CTUIR news release.
Many CTUIR homes have had Chromebooks during the school year that were loaned by the Pendleton School District – or Nixyaawii Community School, but in most cases the tablet-laptop-like devices have been limited to one per household.
According to the BOT news release, families were faced with challenges last spring when school work was moved online and some households were sharing one computer.
The CTUIR-purchased Chromebooks, for kindergarten-through-grade 12 students (ages 5-17) who live on and off the reservation, will be given to the students and will not have to be returned.
“We will distribute information via email and Facebook when we have more information,” said Modesta Minthorn, Education Department Director. “There are approximately 687 students who are Tribal members and we are very pleased the Board has taken this step to support our youth.”
Acer Chromebooks run on a Google Chrome operating system and offer less storage than a traditional Windows or Mac laptop, but provide access to the internet-based classroom activities that students need while staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Minthorn said local distribution will follow social distance restrictions, which the CTUIR Enrollment Office will assist in distributing Chromebooks to off-reservation addresses.