Keewaytinook Internet High School

Keewaytinook Internet High School (KiHS) is an online school in Northwestern Ontario serving First Nation communities in the region. KiHS began in 1999 as a pilot project in Grade 8 as a result of a vision of the Chiefs in Council. With the success of the pilot, the school administration was given the go-ahead to begin offering Ministry of Education credits to Grade 9 students the following year in three communities of the Northern Chiefs’ Tribal Council. The following year it expanded outside the tribal council to eight communities, and later to 13 communities offering Grade 9 to 12 courses. The school was developed to address some of the social and academic issues of students who were leaving the communities after Grade 8 to attend secondary school in southern locations. The chiefs and community members felt that the students were too young to leave, and needed parental and community influence at this formative age. KiHS works with the whole range of students in terms of academic readiness from the communities partnered with the programme.

KiHS has attracted staff from all areas of Canada and even internationally. Many teachers are attracted to the innovative concept and unique delivery of the online programme. When teachers come to the programme, they are expected to live in a remote community, which has partnered with KiHS. They become active members of the community and work with the students in a classroom environment. Unlike many online schools, students are required to come to a physical location and work from nine in the morning to four in the afternoon each day while receiving and sending their curriculum and activities via the Internet. The teacher works as an online instructor in a particular subject area, as well as a mentor to the students in their local classroom. The KiHS teachers have a rich experience as they take part in community events and plan traditional and cultural activities in and outside the school environment with local experts and elders. Many KiHS staff have been with the programme for five or more years.

Students choosing to remain in their home community to work toward their high school diploma with KiHS have a unique experience. They are able to access a large variety of quality Ministry of Education courses while having the input of the parents, their community and its elders in their lived day-to-day experience. Many students come to KiHS with little technical experience, but they quickly develop a technical expertise beyond the average student as they take active roles in their education. They can choose to take locally developed courses (e.g., Math, Science, and English in Grade

9 and 10 with a more flexible approach to local inclusion), applied courses (i.e., these are middle-of-the-road courses preparing students for work or college), or an academic stream of courses (i.e., preparing students for university). This choice is not offered in many other First Nation schools in the district, so they have an advantage in their educational journey by attending KiHS. Many students enjoy the local and family culture, which is a big part of their life, and the KiHS experience is flexible enough to allow this to happen while taking their courses. Students at KiHS have the best of both worlds. They are able to obtain a quality education and experience all the benefits of their home community environment.