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Tierna Unruh-Enos is the managing editor and associate publisher at The Paper.

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Parents are tired. Kids are tired. We’re all tired. On Tuesday, in her State of the State address, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham said after careful planning and meticulous research, she believes that New Mexico kids can go back to school in two weeks. Before you get too excited, there’s a laundry list of steps each school needs to make before the bell rings on February 8th.

Following the governor’s announcement, the Public Education Department released the state’s protocol that all New Mexico school districts and charter schools must meet and maintain in order to open its doors and keep them open.

Right now each school district or charter school has three options for in-person learning:

  • All schools — elementary and secondary — in all counties will be eligible to enter the hybrid mode, which means opening back up to 50 percent of students at a time in order to maintain social distancing and to keep students in smaller cohorts to avoid virus transmission;
  • Districts and schools with fewer than 100 students may bring back all students in a 5:1 ratio with no more than six people per enclosed indoor space;
  • Districts/schools not ready to welcome back students into a full hybrid model may expand small-group instruction to all grades — maintaining cohorts — with up to 50 percent of students participating at a time.

Previously, a school had to be located in a county with green status in order to begin a hybrid in-person learning schedule. With the new regulations, the red or green status doesn’t dictate whether schools can open or not. The PED did say that it was completely up to the school board of that district whether they choose to implement hybrid in-person learning in two weeks. The agency also stressed that educators will be prioritized for COVID vaccines, along with essential and frontline workers in Group 1b, but vaccines will not be mandated in order to return to return to the classroom.

The governor emphasized that the planning and hard work has paid off, resulting in a plan that is epidemiologically sound for expanding in-person learning. “We will get this right, and we will move forward, and every school district in the state will be able to welcome all ages of students safely back to the classroom on February 8th.”

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