Student Council: Visiting Governance Center in Sacaton November 29, 2017-After meeting with the Honorable GRIC Governor Lewis about Christmas Program and Gifts Donation at Our School, Student Council posed for a Group Picture. They really enjoyed the visit and talking to Gov. Lewis. Governor praised their efforts for being so considerate and caring towards all students at Blackwater Community School. We want to thank the Tribal Administration for their generous donations and continuing support to our School.
"The Best in the West"...
Blackwater Community School is located on the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC) southeast of Phoenix, AZ. The reservation is 583,748 square miles and consists of seven distinct districts with a population of 11,712 (2010 Census). Our School primarily serves two geographic areas of this community District 1 and District 2. The reservation has two distinct tribes the Akimel O’Otham (River People – Pima Indians and Pee Posh (Maricopa Indians). More importantly, is the historical status of this tribe which traces its ancestry to the Hohokam Indians which inhabited the Gila River Basin beginning in 300 B.C. until 1400 A.D. The Hohokam Indians brought significant technology to the Southwest with the introduction of agriculture, irrigation canals, and extensive trade networks. Collectively, these contributions changed the future of the Southwest and laid the groundwork for the expansion of Spanish, Europeans and American settlements in this region. This tradition of agriculture is still at the heart of the Akimel O’Otham culture and is the heart of the school. The vision of the school, “Quality Education Begins Here” is exemplified by an extensive network of solid educational practices and the presence of the traditional language and culture evident on campus. The school represents the hub of the community and celebrates the community’s heritage throughout the year.
This school has been in operation since 1939 at its current location. Blackwater Community School is a hybrid school meaning it operates Kindergarten thru 3rd grade under the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) while 4th and 5th grades operate under the Arizona State Charter Board under the banner of Akimel O'Otham Pee Posh Charter School Inc. BIE approved the 3rd grade expansion request in October of 2016 allowing all ISEP eligible students to go under the BIE while non-ISEP eligible students remain under the state charter. A vast majority of our enrolled students are Native American from the local Gila River Indian Community.
In 2016 the Bureau of Indian Education announced and published a new school construction application. The Bureau had last published a new school construction application in FY 2004.
As background, the Bureau had been directed to establish a School Facilities & Construction Negotiated Rulemaking Committee by the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Committee held five consultation sessions with tribes and schools in 2011 to solicit comments about the condition of facilities and funding needs in Indian country. The Rule Making Committee developed a formula for the equitable distribution of funds to address the poor condition of BIE-funded schools. As a result, The No Child Left Behind School Facilities and Construction Negotiated Rule-Making Committee established the process and criteria for determining how to select which schools to be prioritized for replacement. The National Review Committee (NRC), (a committee of educators, facility experts and Indian Affairs Office of Facilities, Property and Safety Management staff), determined eligibility for campus-wide school replacement based on factors as proposed in the NCLB Negotiated Rulemaking report: School facilities having an overall Facility Condition Index (FCI) rating of “poor,” and/or are 50 years or older and educating 75 percent or more of the students in portables. Based on these criteria, 78 BIE- funded were eligible to be considered for campus replacement. Schools meeting the eligibility requirements were invited to submit an application to be reviewed and scored by the NRC with representatives from each of the BIE Regions with eligible schools. Of the 78 eligible schools, 53 submitted an application for replacement.
The Blackwater Community School (BWCS) along with 52 other schools funded by the Bureau of Indian Education applied. The extensive review and selection process included an examination of all eligible BIE funded schools. After the initial review by the Bureau, the BWCS was selected along with nine other schools to present to a BIA\BIE National Review Committee panel in February 2016 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In April 2016 the school was notified that as a result of the February 2016 review it was selected as one of ten schools for the new Priority School Replacement List. That list was subsequently published in the Federal Register.
The Bureau has three new school construction phases-the Planning Phase, Design Phase and Construction Phase. The Bureau made a decision to prioritize schools for construction based on the successful completion of the Planning and Design phases.
The Blackwater Community School is completing its Planning Phase by mid-August 2017 and will be ready to start the Design Phase as soon as we complete the Design Phase application. The Planning Phase consisted of submitting information to the Bureau on land survey data, flood plain reviews, square footage requirements to meet the school’s education mission, traffic study data, land ownership information, and preliminary cost construction estimates. During this phase the school conducted community outreach sessions to keep the Districts informed and sought public comment on design considerations. We also met with the elders in our Districts to seek their input and conducted internal review sessions with teachers to solicit their input on classroom design.
It is our understanding we are the first of the ten schools on the priority list to complete the Planning Phase. The Bureau informed the schools at the start of the Planning Phase they will prioritize schools for construction based on “first in, first out.” This means if Blackwater was the first to complete the Planning and Design Phase, it would be the first school constructed. We have made it our priority to be the first school constructed by the Bureau.
Based on the Planning Phase computations for needed new construction, the school will be constructed in two Phases. The first phase will be based on constructing space for the kindergarten through third grade and the second phase will be focused on grades four and five. During the first phase the school will construct common areas to serve all students to include the cafeteria\kitchen, gymnasium, administration, culture classroom, and library. We estimate the Design Phase will take six to nine months during which time we will continue to seek approval from the Bureau to include the higher grades in the new building.