The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

By Kevin Wilson

Portales schools puts off hybrid learning


Last updated 9/17/2020 at 3:53pm

PORTALES — The Portales school district doesn’t plan to begin hybrid learning until Oct. 20, regardless of what data shows on Roosevelt County’s daily case count and test positivity show on COVID-19.

By the time that date comes around, Portales Municipal Schools will have dealt with untold interruptions to normalcy.

Superintendent Johnnie Cain participated in the school board’s Monday meeting from home, where he is quarantined until Sept. 25 following a positive test in central office. Cain said four others are in similar quarantine, but did not disclose those identities or the person who tested positive. A daily email on cases from the Public Education Department Wednesday indicated a Portales district office secretary tested positive and was last in the building on Sept. 9.

Cain anticipates the quarantines will cause some issues, as the district office normally has about 11 employees. The district, Cain said, informs anybody who works in a building where there is a positive COVID-19 case, and requires a quarantine if there is close contact — defined as being in the same room with the positive person within a few days of showing symptoms.

When asked about sick time for employees who do test positive for COVID-19, Cain noted federal legislation grants them 10 sick days and that people can work from home on quarantine.

“If you're on a 14-day quarantine and you can deliver your classes,” Cain said, “that's not coming off your sick time at all. The only time we're charging (sick time) is if they get so sick they can't work.”

When asked about the usage of antibody tests, Cain said the PED doesn’t accept antibody tests due to concerns about reliability of results. Cain noted a local instance of a false negative from an antibody test.

Board member Rodney Savage noted his son had a pretty serious case of COVID-19 in Dallas, and antibodies were helpful in his recovery. Having watched his son go through that experience, Savage believes it would be helpful to know who might have antibodies to donate plasma.

In other business at the Monday meeting:

• Cain said James and Brown elementary schools have been working in person with small groups of elementary students who are identified as needing additional help, in accordance with state regulations and a 5:1 teacher to student ratio.

• The district, Cain said, has loaned out 1,675 Chromebooks and about 200 Internet hot spots as of Friday.

• Athletic Director Mark Gallegos said the Rams are planning the Ram volleyball opener and the school’s inaugural cross country meet on Oct. 10. Even though the school will not be in hybrid mode, Gallegos said the school is cleared by the New Mexico Activities Association to participate when the seasons begin Oct. 5 for volleyball, cross country and fall golf.

The golf team is still putting a schedule together, Gallegos said.

• Henry Montano, assistant superintendent of instruction and assessment, said he was working with Portales High School Principal Arturo Ontiveros on a pair of SAT tests at no cost to PHS seniors. The tests would be administered Oct. 14 and 28, with a 5:1 administrator to student ratio required.

• Cain introduced Phillip Fields as the district’s maintenance director. Fields said he previously held the same title at Roosevelt General Hospital, but he’s found the regulations are far different and that it only took a few days for him to realize predecessor Nat Gomez left huge shoes to fill.

• The next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 13 at the PMS administrative office.


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