RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – One of the state’s larger school districts are giving teachers a time and place this week to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The push has some wondering if more students could be allowed back in the district’s classrooms with more vaccinations getting doled out.
Rio Rancho Public Schools is also one of the first districts in New Mexico to launch a vaccine clinic for teachers and other education staff starting Friday. According to the district, the shots will be available for employees who’ve willingly signed up. The district says it is not forcing employees to get vaccinated.
“We’re hoping for a large percentage (of employees),” said Bethany Pendergrass, Chief Communications, Strategy and Engagement Officer for Rio Rancho Public Schools. “We’re not tracking it, but we are noticing that a large percentage of our staff members are interested and have signed up to receive the vaccination.”
The vaccination clinic comes as the district started welcoming kindergarten through fifth-grade students back hybrid-learning Tuesday. Rio Rancho schools are among a small portion of New Mexico districts that are allowing for half of their students to attend in-person class while the other half remains online as part of hybrid learning.
Regardless of the number of teachers that choose to get vaccinated in the district, a lot of what happens with student populations will ultimately depend on what’s outlined in the state’s public health orders and what the Public Education Department decides. Rio Rancho Schools says it’s treating the vaccine as an added safety measure, but nothing so far that would guarantee parents or students anything extra at school.
“Even though your staff are vaccinated, you still have a number of students in the building who aren’t,” Pendergrass said. “I don’t anticipate that (vaccines) would change the numbers of students that were allowed in the hybrid model, but you know, we’re still waiting on information on when they’ll bring back secondary students, and I know that the PED is working on that.”
Alongside Bernalillo Public Schools and a few nearby charter schools, Rio Rancho schools are expected to be administered vaccines at Cleveland High School on Friday and Saturday. Booster shots are expected to be administered on February 12 and 13. Students will be provided with asynchronous learning materials during the vaccination clinics taking place on Fridays.
According to data posted on the district’s website, Rio Rancho Public Schools has seen around 130 COVID-positive cases among students and staff this school year.