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New Mexico schools are at a crossroads on reopening following an announcement by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in her state of the state address. The Pulic Education Dept. set guidelines for combining in-person classes and remote learning from home, and said districts will be allowed to bring all students back to schools beginning Feb. 8. Albuquerque Public Schools APS Interm Superintendent Scott Elder announced in a Jan. 27 news conference that APS schools need to undergo inspections for the safety of their students before they could consider going back. Lujan-Grisham first ordered the closure of NM schools almost a year ago in March.
Santa Fe Public Schools however, will begin the process of reopening their schools for all grade levels. Superintendent Veronica García discussed how she and her administration team has been exploring ways to begin a hybrid style model for their reopening system. Rio Rancho Public Schools’ hybrid learning model went into action on Jan. 19 to prioritize the safety of their faculty, student and parents.
SFPS’ Superintendent García explained of some of Santa Fe’s schools will have an issue with classroom capacity. She explained most of their school won’t have enough room accommodating to the 50 percent limit while meeting the district’s social distancing guidelines. On top of that, she mentions that some secondary schools have yet to go through the inspection process.
RRPS’ superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland met with the Rio Rancho School board on Feb. 1 to discuss the reopening. Dr. Cleveland explained how “89 school districts are going to have to meet these expectations without really knowing what needs to be done.” Rio Rancho officials discussed the number of hurdles they are facing, with a low number of substitute teachers as well as custodians.
The Albuquerque Teachers Federation released a statement regarding the issue on Feb. 1. The union explained how they were “Confused by the sudden rush to transition to in-person hybrid learning while the pandemic continues to rage out of control,” and wondered “Why now after waiting over 10 months and building the stability of remote learning?”
APS has proposed a fixed schedule to the PED in order to compromise. The proposal contains pushing the hybrid learning format to March and a soft 25 percent opening at the end of February.
When APS Board met Wednesday night, interim-superintendent Scott Elder has some criticism for the governor. “The gov caught us off guard last Tuesday and I wish she had been a little more careful with her words. Because when she said students could return on Feb. 8, what parents heard was 100 percent of students could return and that’s not the case.”
APS faces the same janitorial and substitute teacher challenges as RRPS and SFPS. APS Board members voted to delay returning back to school until staff surveys were completed and an assessment of janitorial capabilities were completed.