Annual IPP meeting addresses COVID-19 impacts

Southern Ute Vice Chairman, Bruce Valdez and Southern Ute Education Department Director, LaTitia Taylor welcome parents and families of Native American students in the Ignacio School District to the yearly Indian Policies and Procedures meeting held in the Ignacio High School auditorium on Monday, Oct. 18.
Ignacio School District Superintendent, Chris deKay introduces the high school, middle school and elementary school principals to speak about the loss of learning plan credit recovery plans from the previous school year at the annual Indian Policies and Procedures meeting at the Ignacio High School on Monday, Oct. 18.
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum
McKayla Lee | The Southern Ute Drum

 The Ignacio School Board and the Southern Ute Indian Tribal Council hosted the annual Ignacio School District Indian Policies and Procedures (IPP) meeting on Monday, Oct. 18 inside the Ignacio High School Auditorium. The meeting was open to all parents and guardians of Native American students who attend schools within the district. 

These annual meetings are important, because they are a vital way of getting information to families about the collaboration between the schools and the Southern Ute Tribe’s Education Department. “I am glad that you have all made it out tonight, it’s so good to see families and students here,” Southern Ute Education Director, LaTitia Taylor stated. “This evening I encourage you all to listen to the statistics that the schools have and hear about the collaboration we share, we’re all here to work together for our students.” 

During the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic, 20 to 50 percent of students chose to do the remote learning option and many of those learners fell behind. The meeting introduced district’s Loss of Learning Plans and Credit Recovery programming that are specific to the schools, teachers, and students. 

“Learning loss is at an all-time high, we really need to recognize how COVID has impacted our community,” Ignacio Middle School Principal, Dayna Talamante-Montoya said. “We are really encouraging academic rigor; we have tutoring available for students on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and if students are in sports, we have extra tutoring support for our student athletes.” 

At the Elementary and Middle school levels students are seeing an increase of tutoring support, referrals to the Southern Ute Education Department and are even utilizing the 7 Mindsets: Social Emotional Learning (SEL) curriculum.    

“The 7 Mindsets are helping students rebuild focus and encourages them to do some personal reflection, this helps us make connections with students,” Talamante-Montoya stated. The SEL curriculum has proven the mindsets-based methodology and framework is an integral part of students’ development. It also leads to intrinsic motivation that students greatly needed after the impacts of sudden remote learning 

Principals from each school presented statistics, test scores and information about programming to the families at the IPP meeting. The COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Pandemic not only forced districtwide closures but directly and negatively influenced the students’ academic engagement during the 2020 school year. 

The High School’s approach to combat the loss of learning and credit recovery plans are to “meet students where they are and moving them forward.”  

“During a normal school year, we have students coming in at varying levels of understanding—but this year that has been exasperated by COVID – we have students that are lower than normal and some that are higher than normal,” Ignacio High School Principal, Barb Fjerstad said. “If you walked into the building at this time, what you would see is differential instruction, and this means classroom teachers are teaching content at a different speed or a different level to meet the students where they are.” 

In addition to COVID-19 impacts and concerns for student learning, parents asked for guidance on how to best support their students. “The best way that parents can support their students right now is to make sure that they have a time set aside to focus 100 percent of their attention on working—students don’t need someone to walk them through the work so much as they need someone to sit there and help them stay on task,” Fjerstad said. “A good chunk of these kids just need to have your support to have you sit down and work with them on their academic endurance even if they don’t have homework, read with them, talk with them, that’s the best advice I can give to you, just give them as much of your time as you can to help them.” 

COVID-19 has caused a significant impact on the state’s test scores, and the district is not left out. There was a lower participation rate in testing as well as a disruption of learning that affected achievement scores. Academic engagement and growth scores were presented to those in attendance at the IPP meeting by Ignacio School District’s Curriculum Director, Cori Stevens. In 2021, the district exceeded the state average in English Language Arts and Math as well, overall, the growth was at 21 percent. Continuing this growth and reaching new proficiency levels is going to be a main focus point for both parents and the district to help improving student success. 

“I just want to say thank you all for coming out, it really shows our students we care when we come together as a community and we can build a better foundation to support them,” Southern Ute Vice Chairman, Bruce Valdez stated. “COVID has had a serious impact on all of us but we have learned how to adapt and grow together, I appreciate all the different departments and staff that work together to help our kids, because they are our future.” 


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