On Wednesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asked members of the National Guard and state employees to volunteer as substitute teachers and child care workers around the state as New Mexico schools are being crushed under the weight of the wave of Omicron infections.
At least 60 schools across the state have moved to remote instruction temporarily since winter break began in December and districts have reported a demand for close to 800 substitute teachers.
Officials said volunteers from the guard and state workforce will be asked to work where they’re needed and to meet state requirements for substitute teachers. It will be up to each principal, state officials said, whether members of the National Guard will appear in uniform or civilian clothes. No firearms will be allowed on campus.
Substitute teachers at K-12 schools, for example, have to undergo background checks and complete an online substitute teaching workshop. The governor said the initiative is designed to help reopen closed schools and prevent closures at others.
“We’ve heard from multiple districts that a lack of substitute teachers is among the most critical staffing issues right now, and they’ve asked for the state’s support,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus.
“Our schools are a critical source of stability for our kids,” Lujan Grisham said in a written announcement, and “we know they learn better in the classroom and thrive among their peers.”
Initially, about 50 members of the Army and Air National Guard in New Mexico are expected to participate. They are expecting that number to rise to 100 participants. They will serve on active duty, and receive their usual pay.