Plenty Coups High, which sits at the base of the Pryor Mountains, began a new school year Wednesday.
The school has 80 students in grades seven through 12, said principal Sharon Stands.
About 90 percent of the students are members of the Crow Tribe, and one of the exciting aspects of the school, Stands said, is the presence of Crow staff members.
"It shows the students they can go on and do it, too," she said.
Even the head of the district, Dr. Luke Enemy Hunter, is a member of the tribe, she said.
Like many reservation schools, Plenty Coups High has struggled to meet the adequate yearly progress goals set by No Child Left Behind.
To address the deficiency, Stands said, the school has been working with OPI coaches over the past year, particularly on attendance and vocabulary.
"The biggest challenge is attendance," Stands said.
Only half the high school students showed up for the first day of school on Wednesday. Part of the problem, Stands said, is families who don't insist their students attend school every day, and students who don't view education as a priority.
As for vocabulary, students live in homes where Crow adults primarily speak their native language. So even though the youths don't speak Crow, they may struggle with words they weren't taught at home.
"The coaches are directing us in the areas we're concentrating on," Stands said. "We didn't want to take on too much. If we can work on those two areas and improve, then we're making progress."
The school also is going from seven to eight periods a day, with the last period giving students study time and opportunity to work with teachers.
Enemy Hunter said schools across the Crow reservation also are working with the tribe's leadership toward continuity that will allow students to transfer to any school and find similar curriculum.
Stands said there's good news coming out of the district.
"I think the majority of seniors this past year are enrolled at MSUB or Little Big Horn College," she said. "The teachers are really working hard at getting our students comfortable in a college environment."
Stands said the school was excited that Superintendent of Schools Denise Juneau, an enrolled member of the Blackfeet Tribe, was kicking off the school year at the small district 30 miles southeast of Billings.
"We're so excited to know one of our people is at the helm of the state education department," she said.
Contact Susan Olp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 657-1281.