Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Albuquerque schools are facing an uphill challenge in their efforts to contain a surging Delta variant in the state. Albuquerque Public Schools reported COVID cases in at least half of their school as of this week. 

As of August 16, APS reported 139 cases of COVID from 68 schools. According to the school district’s website, this was up from 85 cases from the previous week and 14 cases the week before.

“We are following every possible preventive measure,” Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta said about APS’ efforts to mitigate and contain any further spread of the virus. “APS continues to follow the guidelines from experts,” Armenta added. The school district is working closely with the Department of Health to meet the challenges posed by the virus and hasn’t had to shut down any schools.

Following guidelines set by the Public Education Dept., any student or teacher who tests positive for COVID has to isolate for a minimum of 10 days, or until all symptoms have been gone for 24 hours. Anyone determined to have had “close contact” with a COVID-positive person will also have to quarantine.

Armenta made it clear that the pandemic is still raging and that APS is taking every possible measure to ensure the safety of its students. She noted that parents have a critical role to play in the safety of their students. “Parents should know that there should never been a more critical time to be informed,” Armenta said. 

In a media briefing on Wednesday with health officials, Health and Human Services Director Dr. David Scrase said, “We have no plans whatsoever at this time to return to virtual learning, we know kids learn better in in-person school.”

Public schools aren’t the only ones seeing a surge in cases. Several charter schools and private schools in the metro have also reported cases, and some have had to shut down for a week for cleaning. Salam Academy, a small private school serving 100 children from Pre-K through 12 grade, closed for one week due to the close proximity of students in one building. “We are taking all precautionary measures to keep our students and staff safe, but we know that students learn best in person, and we look forward to welcoming them back next week,” said school administration.

In its efforts to contain the virus as students return to school during a surge with the Delta variant, Armenta says schools have easily accessible handwashing stations and encourage social distancing whenever possible. Students over 12 are encouraged to get vaccinated and all schools require masks in public on campus.

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

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