WARM SPRINGS, Ore. -

As construction crews work away on the New Warm Springs K-8 academy, Jefferson County school officials are building a new type of learning for the tribes' struggling students -- armed with a big, new federal grant.

"(Students will be learning) personal mastery and project-based learning," planning principal Glenna DeSouza said Thursday. "They need to be able to voice, 'This is what I'm working on, this is where I need to go,' it's all related to the common core."

The district just received a more than $1.6 million School Improvement Grant from the U.S. Department of Education.  It's money designated to help the worst-performing schools.

State data shows the Warm Springs Community School is one of the lowest-achieving schools in Oregon.

DeSouza said most of the money will go toward training teachers.

"The professional development is key," DeSouza said. "Doing that through personal coaching, and other activities like student mentoring."

Teachers will get together this summer for a couple weeks of intensive training. DeSouza hopes they'll also develop new ways to connect to parents.

"(We want to develop) lessons that are culturally relevant, and bringing in the community to help the teachers understand that is important," he said.

One partnership in the works will bring more tribal arts into the classrooms.

"We will be implementing new learning strategies, but we also want to honor and celebrate the culture of Warm Springs. So kind of blending those together, that's exciting," DeSouza said.