Rural school goes from no internet to complete distance-learning

MCKENZIE, N.D. - Two years ago, Horse Creek School in McKenzie County had no internet connection, unreliable cell service, and didn't even have a land-line telephone.

In august of 2018, broadband was installed in the one-room schoolhouse. Now, due to COVID-19, students are taking all of their classes online.

The one-room schoolhouse was one of the last schools in the state to get high-speed internet, after Reservation Telephone Cooperative laid five miles of fiber optics and wired the building.

Horse Creek School Teacher Katie Tosch said: "We have had really good luck with all of our online stuff. I've had no issues on the school end."

Now, Katie Tosch can easily teach all online lessons from the school, but rural limitations sometimes impact students who live on farms.

"It's harder to do it on Zoom than it is in real life. because of, sometimes it pauses it and the internet isn't working," said second-grader Henri Haugen.

Henri said there are positives and negatives about learning from home, adding "then I can ride my horse."

Tosch teaches 12 students in six different grades, so adjusting to the one-hour time slots wasn't difficult.

"So, the kids are already kind of used to waiting their turn for their lessons and like with my older kids, they're already used to self-teaching a lot," said Tosch.

The students say doing assignments on the web can't replace seeing each other and their teacher.

Henri said, "I really hope we can go back to school and this virus is done."

In addition to online schooling, the bus driver delivers paper assignments to and from students' homes every week.