Albuquerque Public Schools work on re-entry plan for new school year

Coronavirus New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – With the school year just a couple months away, parents and students are still wondering what it will look like. Albuquerque Public Schools just drafted a plan that includes a lot of changes.

The state’s largest school district recently released an 11-page re-entry plan. APS administrators said the district’s top priority moving forward is health and safety.

“The challenges involved in reopening are just tremendous,” explained Scott Elder, Acting Superintendent for Albuquerque Public Schools. “Transporation, repeated testing for staff and students, contact tracing, stepped up hygiene and cleaning, technology — it’s just a bit overwhelming.”

The first day back to school is set for August 12th. Elder said APS is preparing with multiple plans since reopening schools will also depend on guidance from the Public Education Department, Department of Health, and what the virus caseload looks like as summer progresses.

Models in the re-entry plan range from full capacity, to a hybrid of distance learning and alternate days in class, and a third model with solely online instruction. Measures could be tightened up or relaxed over the course of the school year depending on circumstances in each community.

Schools are looking at everything from sanitation supplies, social distance measures, and meal access for students. The plan also addresses emotional recovery for families and students, “following a time of significant stress, trauma, financial and economic stress, and insecurity.”

KRQE News 13 spoke with an APS parent who has both a high schooler and an elementary school student. While her high-schooler was more self-motivated, Julie Sprunk said trying to keep her young one engaged in school from home was challenging.

“When you’re in a classroom, you’re interacting whether you know it or not,” Sprunk explained. “You’re communicating with other kids, you’re hands-on, so sitting in front of an iPad for an hour-and-a-half is very very difficult for a seven-year-old,” she added.

Despite the challenges, Sprunk said she doesn’t feel comfortable sending her kids back to school full time without a vaccine for COVID-19. “Right now the most important thing is keeping our kids safe,” said Sprunk.

Measures APS could implement include employees wearing masks, closing common areas like cafeterias, and having kids eat lunch in class. The plan also includes social distancing students by keeping desks six feet apart, staggering drop-off and pick-up times, and closing playgrounds or staggering their use for disinfection.

“I’m lucky enough to be able to be home with them, but there’s some parents that have to go to work,” said Sprunk. “They’re gonna have to send their kids to school.”

While she’s worried about kids falling behind this school year, Sprunk suggested parents who can stay home and help with distancing learning should do so. “Those parents that can distance learn I think they should, that way it makes room for those parents that have to send their kids to school, then that would cut down on the capacity and maybe make it a little bit easier.”

Sprunk said she’s also a school bus driver and expressed concerns about how she may have to enforce social distancing on the bus. Keeping kids from sitting with their friends, or how to handle a situation when a child appears sick – are all things she’s wondered about.

State guidelines for reopening schools should be finalized in the next few weeks. “We could have some schools in different models if their communities are being impacted differently,” said Elder. “It is all dependent on the direction the virus takes and how it behaves in the future.”

Read APS Reentry Plan

New Mexico Coronavirus Resource Guide

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