State covers re-entry guidelines
Curry, Roosevelt remain in online-only instruction
September 2, 2020
SANTA FE -- The New Mexico Public Education Department gave a review of criteria required for a phased reintroduction to in-person public education Thursday. Most local schools, however, will remain in online-only mode through at least next week.
Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart had a media availability Thursday, where he and Human Services Secretary David Scrase addressed some of the key components as schools look to go back to in-person classes for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of the prior school year.
The state delayed in-person schooling until after the Labor Day weekend due to high COVID-19 positive tests throughout the state in July, but Stewart thanked New Mexicans for following social distancing and COVID-safe protocols to get positive tests down and allow re-entry plans to take place.
For a school district to be cleared for re-entry, two conditions must be met:
-- Its home county must be in the “green zone,” defined as having less than eight new positive cases per 100,000 residents and test positivity rate at or below 5%. Both criteria are calculated on 14-day rolling averages. Human Services Secretary David Scrase said previous measures have included seven-day averages, but increasing the sample size helps counties and school districts avoid uncertainty over how much one day could shift numbers.
“The 14 days is to stabilize this,” Scrase said. “We really want to get counties in the green, open schools and keep them open. We do want to work with the leadership in each county to get the word out … on what to do to get your county back into the green.”
-- A school district must have a re-entry plan approved by the Public Education Department.
“Flexibility is going to have to be the name of the game,” Stewart said, noting that a plan must have considerations for social distancing, remote-only options for students and staffers who have concerns.
The only local county in the green is De Baca, which has not had a COVID-19 positive test. The Fort Sumner school district, Stewart said, also has an approved re-entry plan in place.
Scrase said the state does expect there will be infection spikes throughout the state over the next few months, and there may be some closures of classrooms or schools during the school year. Should a district have to close due to COVID-19 cases, Scrase said, the factors will be pretty evident to the community before that decision is made.
“We owe it to our kids to do this right the first time,” Scrase said in a Wednesday webinar. “Once we get them back, we want to keep them there. We will have cases. We will have to close schools. I really hope we don’t have a district (closure).”
Further information on county data is available at cv.nmhealth.org under the “Data Dashboard” option, and more information on school re-entry will be posted at newmexico.gov/education/.
We are working on a more detailed story for our Sunday edition.