Committee tables bill to reopen school buildings on Navajo Nation

Noel Lyn Smith
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A proposal to reopen school buildings on the Navajo Nation was tabled by tribal council delegates over timing and ongoing concerns about COVID-19.

In August 2020, the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee approved a resolution that recommended all public and private schools delay plans to reopen buildings for the current school year.

Legislation No. 0046-21 seeks to rescind that resolution, but the committee tabled the measure until the July 15 meeting.

Delegate Charlaine Tso made the motion to table on March 25 and explained it would allow more time for students 16 and over to get the COVID-19 vaccine.In addition, school administrators and school boards would have more time to discuss reopening plans with the Department of Diné Education, she said.Her recommendation came after a lengthy discussion between delegates and Patricia Gonnie, interim superintendent of schools at DODE.

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"I've been considering all the factors in all these statements that my colleagues have been putting forth, we just need to give a lot more time to our schools to get everything situated," Tso said.

She further explained that several constituents oppose students returning to classrooms.

"I want everything to go back to normality, but we need to do it with a lot of precautions and a lot of plans set forth because our children are our future," Tso said.

The committee did not consider a separate measure that proposes to rescind the tribe's stance and opposition to in-person learning at schools on the Navajo Nation.

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Council OKs reopening tribe's roads

Delegates approved a bill to rescind the closure of roads owned and maintained by the tribe to tourists and visitors.

The decision was made during a tribal council special session on March 26, where it passed by a vote of 20-1 and without discussion.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez has previously mentioned that for the tribe to reopen its parks and points of interest, the resolution would need to be revoked and public health emergency orders need to be amended.

"It's my hope that by rescinding this legislation and as the public health orders progress, we'll be able to – within reason – permit our roadside vendors, our tour operators and others who depend on tourists to reopen and recoup some of the revenue that they lost over this past year," Delegate Carl Slater, the bill's sponsor, said.

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Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at

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