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Nespelem School finds "distance learning" more difficult

Nespelem School is at more of a disadvantage when it comes to distance learning, Superintendent Mary Hall told The Star, explaining that being in such a rural area limits access to the internet, as well as cell phone service.

Hall said teachers do put together learning packets that are handed out when the school delivers lunches to students, and that teachers call the families or have the students call them to check in on their learning.

Helpful websites are recommended to those with internet access, but many don’t have it, Hall said.

“It’s just real difficult in rural communities that aren’t supported by that type of technology in the area,” she said. “Poverty here is pretty high. Folks don’t have the resources that others do. So really, for communities like us, there’s big inequities.”

The hardest thing teachers struggle with, Hall said, is being unable to provide direct instruction to teach a new concept, or to provide guided practice after a student is introduced to a new concept or skill.

“They need guidance until they can master that,” Hall said about students learning new things.

“It’s one thing to send out keep-busy enrichment packets,” she said, “we’re beyond that. We really need to focus on, how do we help students truly learn as they continue through this year.

“My concern is where are we going to be in the new school year?” Hall continued. “If they are getting behind, how behind will they be come fall?”

Phones are being used a lot, Hall said. Either the teachers are calling the families to speak to students, or students call teachers on their cell phones for instruction, particularly the older, middle school-aged children who are learning more difficult material.

Hall said some families have to drive to where a cell phone has reception, and that some families don’t even have reliable transportation.

“Across the state, I think they realize there are inequities to access to technology,” she said. “All of the new trainings coming out, the focus is ‘distance learning,’ and what about the rest of us that don’t have that advantage?”


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