Busby Water Outage Sends Kids Home From School

Sep 5, 2019

On the Northern Cheyenne Reservation, Busby has water again after losing it Tuesday afternoon.

When Principal Melvin Mitchell found out the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School would have to send kids home early on Tuesday because of low water pressure, he wasn’t surprised.

"It happens on and off periodically. It’s something that we’ve dealt with off and on since I’ve been there for the past two years," Mitchell says.

He says the school has to shut down 12 to 15 days a year because of problems with water and other maintenance issues.

A source at the Northern Cheyenne Utility Commision, which oversees Busby’s water supply, says the problem was two defunct pumps. The source says the pumps, which were both 10 years old, were replaced for $10,000.

“It is very frustrating in terms of students missing those instructional days and not taking advantage of those core instruction days we need to improve our assessment scores,” Mitchell says.

In the most recent school accreditation report from Montana’s Office of Public Instruction, the elementary, middle and high school branches of the Northern Cheyenne Tribal School are marked as “definifiency status,” primarily because of student performance.

But Mitchell says there’s only so much he can do, especially when the school already has an average of up to 15 snow days each year.

Thursday evening he’ll meet with the elementary school principal and school superintendent to discuss reopening school Friday. They’re free to do so, as the Utility Commission says water has been back up and running in Busby since 5 P.M. Wednesday.

Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for America corps member.