Lakota Tech registration begins but district’s back to school plan is “work in progress”

PINE RIDGE, S.D. – A new career and technical education (CTE) high school in Pine Ridge – Lakota Tech – has begun registering grade 10 through 12 students for 2020-2021.

The high school has been in the making for the past four years or more. Last November they broke ground hoping to start the school year in a brand new facility, new staff and students. But in-person learning may be delayed until next term, in January, due to the unforeseen COVID-19 pandemic.

But that hasn’t diminished the excitement for the 50 new staff members, including 21 teachers that were hired in April and from around the nation.

One staff member, teaching Math, says he came from Alaska where he was familiar with teaching in a rural area with a prevalent native student population. The mission and the location enticed him to apply.

“We want to lay a solid foundation of culture and support for one another,” said Lakota Tech Principal, Stephanie Eisenmenger. “At the core of it, if kids feel valued and welcome and at home at their school, they are going to be much more invested in their academics.” 

The school offers a variety of instruction in fields like Business, Law Enforcement and EMS, Health Sciences, Hospitality, Industrial Arts, Engineering and Teaching. They also offer dual-enrollment for kids seeking college credit.

Freshmen have their own form of instruction in the Freshman Academy. The idea is to let ninth grade students explore their first year of high school. They will be able to:

  • Find career interests and determine future academy enrollment by examining careers and lifestyle goals
  • Set life goals and plan a path to success with the assistance of supportive teachers
  • Visit career sites, college campuses, and learn professional skills for future career and personal success

Lakota Tech has two staff – athletics and activities directors – that have garnered a variety of extracurriculars to allow every student a chance to find their passion.

An esports team is one example of a unique after school activity Lakota Tech is planning to offer. The High School ESports League says that 70 percent of high schoolers play some sort of video game after school already. 80 percent of esports players never participated in an after school program prior to forming a league team. There are also 125 universities with varsity esports teams, with nearly $15 million in scholarship opportunities each year.

But the question remains, with school beginning in just a few short weeks and COVID-19 still very much part of the picture will hands on instruction have to hold off until next semester?

Eisenmenger says the first semester courses are mostly introductory lessons for the hands-on classes which can mostly be done online.

Staff are prepared to teach online if need be. Oglala Lakota Schools went into a hybrid teaching model at the end of last term due to the pandemic.

“We connected with the parents as best as possible in order to make sure our students were able to use the internet,” said OLS Superintendent, Dr. Anthony Fairbanks.”Any student that wanted to be engaged with online learning we were able to support those students.”

The OLS school board will meet August 28th to decide whether or not school will start in-person this year. Plans are still in the works in the event school is started online. Meanwhile, construction of Lakota Tech is still underway with most of the work inside and in the parking lot.

“We are taking this day by day,” said Fairbanks.

For Lakota Tech registration information, visit HERE.

Categories: Coronavirus, Local News, SDDOH COVID