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Rocky Ridge school closed after infections reported

TSÉDILDǪ́’II AND TSÉNITSAADEEZ’ÁHÍ

Cases of coronavirus infections at Rocky Ridge Boarding School near Hard Rock, Arizona, have led to a school closure, acting principal Timothy Clasin announced yesterday.

“The school was infected with the COVID-19 virus and was closed by the Navajo (Bureau of Indian Education) District Office and staff (were) sent home to telework until the school reopens,” Clasin said in a statement.

Clasin said staff and student have a tentative return date, but the date could change since the situation around the coronavirus is rapidly changing.

“Navajo Nation, Arizona and New Mexico have advocated extended closure,” Clasin said in a memo (dated March 27) to parents and the Rocky Ridge community. “You will be informed when students can return to school safely.”

Clasin also announced that Rocky Ridge educator Laverne Bitsui also passed on yesterday. It is not known if she was infected by the coronavirus. People from the area have been expressing their condolences to her family.

“I’ve known her since I was in 4th grade until I promoted,” Mason Nez told the Navajo Times Saturday afternoon. “She’s seen me grow up – basically raised me and (my) classmates because (Rocky Ridge Boarding School) isn’t too big. Everyone knows everyone.

   

“If you ask the locals there about her, they’ll bring up her smile and her contribution to RRBS. She gave me opportunities I won’t forget and still to this day she is the reason I’ve been doing my part in helping not just family and friends but (also) helping my community as well because that’s what she did for me.”

Nez is from Fort Defiance, Arizona, but was raised in Rocky Ridge.

Clasin said Bitsui’s contribution to education and teaching are commendable.

“Social distancing is the current priority,” Clasin said. “Your understanding, support and safeguarding of each other is being sought to mitigate and recover from this crisis for the school and the community.”

Clasin added that health screenings are in effect since chest colds are prominent in the Hardrock area, where medical professionals are providing guidance for COVID-19.

RRBS’s free meal program and homework packets were also cancelled to comply with the Navajo Nation’s public health emergency.


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