The Samish Indian Nation is hosting a summer program for young children while working out details for what will happen in the fall.

This spring, the tribe followed the Anacortes School District in shutting its Longhouse Preschool in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tribal Administrator Kimberlee Anderson said. Decisions for this fall are not yet final, she said.

When the Samish Head Start program went into lockdown, some parents had no options for child care, Anderson said. That included families with parents who are essential workers.

“That need was not being met,” Anderson said.

So leaders at Samish have been working to help serve those children while keeping everyone safe. This summer, they are limiting the number of kids per class, requiring parents to drop off children at the door and allowing only students and teachers in classrooms.

“They are not allowed to bring backpacks or personal items from home,” Anderson said.

The summer camps were opened to the families who most needed them, she said. The students had daily temperature checks, and the kids don’t play with each from classroom to classroom, Anderson said. Meals, which used to be served family-style, are now individual pre-made plates.

The Samish team is working with the CDC to make sure cleanliness guidelines are met, Anderson said.

“As we move toward the school year, we will assess needs and put protocols in place to keep everyone safe,” she said.

The decision on in-person instruction for the Head Start program will follow guidelines set forth by the national Head Start organization, Anderson said.

Samish programs take young people ages 1 to 5.

The best thing to do is explore all options, she said.

Now, the focus is on training teachers and making sure they are ready for what is to come this fall, she said.

“We need to be prepared if virtual learning is still in place a year from now,” she said.

This year, the Samish early education programs will remain in current Samish buildings, but soon they will have a new home. The Samish Indian Nation purchased the land where the D Avenue Nursery now sits earlier this year. It is working on securing grant funding to pay for a new school building.

That construction could start early next year, with students starting to use the space in 2022, Anderson said.

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