By Joe Morey, News Editor
As a leader among tribes in education, Lac Courte Oreilles is now set to be the first tribe to operate an Environmental Green Charter School, to be known as Ganawenjigejig… the ones that take care of and protect things.
Following the award of a $3.3-million-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education to get the charter school started, LCO Vice Chairman Jason Schlender said, “We were the first to create a tribal school after the Hayward Walkout, we operate a successful Ojibwe Language Immersion School and now we’ll be the first tribally-controlled Environmental Green Charter School.”
Schlender said the grant provides all of the necessary funding it needs to get started, but once the school is operational it will receive charter school funding from the Bureau of Indian Education and the State of Wisconsin.
“The estimated cost per pupil is $11,375 statewide,” Schlender said. “The Environmental Charter can also receive funding from outside sources and not just rely on Federal and State funding.”
What is an environmental charter school? Schlender explained it as a school with a culture-based curriculum that integrates Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Language, and other aspects of Identity into the classroom. It’s an English medium school with heavy Ojibwe language infusion.
“Wisconsin state law has granted the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe Community College the ability to authorize charter schools,” Schlender said. “This is the role of the LCO Ojibwe Community College. The LCOOCC has ratified policies so that it may authorize charter schools to enhance educational opportunities for the LCO Tribe.”
Schlender said the school’s target students are the at-risk students that are underserved in the Hayward Community School district and the LCO Ojibwe School.
“In Hayward, only 54% of the native students graduate as opposed to 92% of the non-native students,” said Schlender.
The Ganawenjigejig Charter School will be housed in the LCO Ojibwe School and the LCO Boys & Girls Club buildings.
“Positions have been posted to get the ground work ready and we anticipate students by the Fall of 2019,” Schlender said.