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

Schools cleared for in-person learning


Last updated 1/26/2021 at 1:47pm

SANTA FE — Starting Feb. 8, all school districts across New Mexico will be cleared to bring back in-person learning for grades K-12, the state announced Tuesday afternoon via Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s state of the state address.

According to updated guidance from the Public Education Department:

• All schools will be eligible to enter hybrid learning mode, with up to 50% of students at a time in order to maintain social distancing.

• Districts and schools with less than 100 students can bring all students back in a 5:1 ratio with no more than six people in an enclosed space.

• Districts and schools not ready for a transition to hybrid may expand small-group instruction with up to 50% of students participating at a time.

“This is the news we’ve all been waiting for and a significant step in returning to what we all knew as ‘normal’ before last March,” said Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart. “The state has removed barriers to in-person learning that were erected to protect the health and lives of New Mexicans, but it’s important to note that individual districts and charter schools still may decide that it’s in the best interests of their staff, students and communities to remain in a remote stance for now.”

Local school superintendents couldn’t immediately be reached at press time, but many have previously told The News they would be ready to go back to in-person learning as soon as the state gave clearance.

Previously, school districts could only enter hybrid learning if their county entered the green designation — less than eight daily cases per 100,000 residents and test positivity at or below 5%. Curry County reached that benchmark in September, and has been allowed to continue hybrid learning even as it dipped out of the green designation. Roosevelt County has not reached the green designation.

There will continue to be different criteria for green (both gating criteria met), yellow (one criteria met) and red (neither criteria met). In red counties, surveillance testing is required at 25% per week. In yellow and green counties, the surveillance testing must be at least 12.5%.

The state will require an onsite visit to certify readiness, continued use of student cohorts, upgraded air filtration and strict enforcement of COVID-safe protocols that include face coverings and social distancing.

Even if their schools move to hybrid, families may choose for their children to remain in the remote learning mode, including children living on tribal territory that remains closed.

“I’m proud of the months of analysis and preparation conducted by the state alongside superintendents, charter leaders, the Medical Advisory Team and union leadership to ensure the safety of school buildings and environments,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “There’s no substitute for in-person learning, and the health and safety of students, families and educators are non-negotiable. I believe the planning and hard work have paid off in a robust and epidemiologically sound plan, and districts and schools may soon begin to make the decision to bring back more students safely for in-person learning.”

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