By Kevin Wilson

School board details opening plans


Last updated 8/1/2020 at 1:26pm

CLOVIS — The superintendent for Clovis Municipal Schools, while detailing plans to open the year, summarized feelings for a lot of people.

“Today,” Superintendent Renee Russ said at Tuesday’s board meeting, “sure has been a long week.”

Russ’ second year as superintendent will begin as her first one ended, with schools limited to online learning while New Mexico and the nation battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

The district planned to open its campuses in late August with two cohorts that spent two days on campus and three days in virtual learning and a third cohort, which went online the entire week. But last week, the governor’s office and the Public Education Department required all schools stay in a virtual setting until at least the Labor Day weekend.

Mitzi Estes, who led much of the discussion on the district’s plans for the upcoming year and COVID-19 concerns, said the district is still considering simply going with remote learning for the first nine weeks instead of putting students, employees and families in a “back and forth” situation.

Estes, the district’s deputy superintendent of academic services and leadership, said PED requirements will be more rigorous than in the spring, when plans were designed while a school year was ongoing.

“Grades and attendance are much more important this year than in the spring,” Estes said. “Grades will be taken as we have taken them traditionally, as well as attendance. We’ve got plans in place to assist families in being successful. Our biggest piece is getting families used to Google Classroom, as that’s how the learning will happen in a remote setting, as well as just using the Chromebooks in general.”

The district, Estes said, is working on accommodations like flash drives for families without Internet access, and noted students taking dual enrollment at Clovis Community College will have support in place from both partners.

When CMS is cleared to go into on-campus instruction, it will have a three-cohort system with an intent to limit buildings to 50% capacity. Cohort A will attend school in person Mondays and Tuesdays, Cohort B will attend school in person Thursdays and Fridays and Cohort C will be entirely online. The plan, in full and condensed versions, are available on the district website at

“Because Wednesdays will be remote learning for everybody, Wednesdays will be dedicated to check-ins,” Estes said. “If the students can’t log in virtually, (staff will) make phone calls. We want to provide assistance to families when we see they’re struggling.”

Estes said there would be some communication between staff to make sure seven teachers with good intentions don’t inundate a family with seven calls that would likely cover the same basic issues.

Russ covered the state’s eight re-entry guidelines and said there wouldn’t be random staff testing, but that the district will work with the Department of Health in the event of a positive test.

Carissa Caroland, CMS’ health services director, said the district has acquired noncontact thermometers that read off of wrists and are more accurate than ones that read the forehead, and that campuses have isolation areas for students who do show symptoms. She noted getting students to follow the face covering requirement will be difficult, and Russ mentioned the need for families to help the district by preparing their children for the concept.

Russ also encouraged families to apply for cohorts, with Deputy Director of Operations John King noting bus routes would be determined after cohorts are finalized.

Board member Shawn Hamilton asked if cohort placement would impact a student’s eligibility for extracurricular activities, and Russ responded that eligibility would remain regardless of cohort.

Russ said she could not stress the number of minor details district plans include, and that she regretted not telling various committee members to track the time they spent building those plans.

“Many of those that served on those committees should have been on summer break,” Russ said. “Instead, they chose to step up and work on some of these tough details.”

In other business at the meeting:

• The district officially recognized Carrie Nigreville as its New Mexico School Boards Association award winner for the 2019-20 school year.

Nigreville, the district’s executive director of strategic planning and school support, began as a teacher in the district in 1995.

“I truly cannot think of anyone who is more deserving,” Russ said. “Every role she has fulfilled, she has influenced student achievement. She is an incredible team player. She is a trusted and respected leader.”

Nigreville, who was recommended by the board in March, said the words meant a lot coming from Russ.

• Deputy Superintendent of Employee Services Joe Strickland requested the board rescind policy changes it made at its prior meeting to rectify what he said was an honest mistake. The changes were initially requested to have a designee should the superintendent be unavailable. A review of policy after the meeting, Strickland said, revealed those conditions already existed in overarching policy.

The board did have encouraging words for Strickland, noting the new hires list far outpaced the resignation and retirement lists.

• The next meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Aug. 25.


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