Governor delays in-person school instruction
July 22, 2020
SANTA FE -- New Mexico’s public schools will open the year with online-only instruction, and will continue to do so until at least the Labor Day weekend.
That was announced Thursday, during a press conference from Gov. Michelle Lujan-Grisham. The governor noted infection rates for COVID-19 haven’t gone down as state officials had initially hoped, despite good news on most gating criteria.
The state announced 343 new cases of COVID-19 Thursday, bringing total confirmed infections to 18,163. The state has recorded 596 deaths, has 167 people hospitalized and has 7,056 cases designated as recovered.
Online instruction will begin as previously scheduled, but the governor said "Additional time is needed to assure our students, families and educators" are able to gather safely in classrooms during the pandemic.
“I know this is a really hard decision,” Lujan Grisham said, noting the early announcement should give the state and school districts some time to prepare remote learning. “There are parents who are going to be concerned about child care. We’re working on it.”
The state will allow certain exceptions for in-person instruction for students with special needs and those kids most in need of help in grades K-3. In those cases, instruction will be limited to one teacher per five students.
After Labor Day, the process for reintroducing students into in-person learning will start with the hybrid model the state had hoped to use to begin the school year. Lujan Grisham said the first priority will be to get elementary students back into in-person learning, followed by middle school and high school. The younger the student, the governor said, the more difficulty students tend to have with remote learning.
School districts in areas with lower infection rates may be allowed to resume in-person instruction faster than others, but Lujan Grisham said none would happen before Labor Day.
When asked if remote learning could be extended past Labor Day, Lujan Grisham said it was possible but wanted to accentuate the state could change its fortunes with personal behavior. She implored New Mexicans to continue to use face coverings, with a goal of 80 to 90% compliance, and limit social interactions.
“Countries have shown unequivocally they have beaten back the virus,” the governor said. “We know it’s possible. If they can do it, we can do it.”