NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Public Education Department announced on Friday that schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. School closings were announced in an effort to minimize the spread of the virus.
PED reports that the decision to close schools through the end of the year is part of a two-part plan to protect residents from COVID-19 and to make sure students are protected, fed, and educated and that families are supported through this time. While Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham initially ordered that all public schools would be closed for three weeks from March 16 through April 3, she warned at the time that this period could be extended.
Friday, in a new executive order, the closure was extended through the end of the school year. Schools will not be required to make up the missed instructional days between March 16 and April 3.
- High school credits will be awarded based on flexible approaches that include the completion of work, the demonstration of competency for course completion and expanded equivalency such as work experience.
- This closure order does not include public universities and colleges, however, most have issued extensions to spring breaks, transitioned to online courses or in some instances both.
- Each school district will design measures in which seniors can demonstrate graduation eligibility. That could include testing, the completion of a series of assignments, the ability to achieve a set score on a college entrance exam or demonstrating applied work experience.
- High school seniors will have until June 19 to demonstrate graduation eligibility. Those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer. These students will also be able to appeal to their local school board or secretary.
- No student will be denied graduation due to lack of access to demonstrate competency.
- Graduation ceremonies will be postponed or held virtually.
- School contractors and personnel will continue to be paid and will remain on call.
- Advanced placement exams will be offered online and will be limited to material students should have covered in class up to March. Arrangements will be made for students who require access to technology to take the exams.
- Behavioral Health Division of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department will be working in partnership with the New Mexico Human Services Department and additional care organizations to help providers and families create digital access to mental health services for youth.
- Special needs will receive all possible supports and accommodations that can be delivered while maintaining safe social distancing practices. School districts must continue to support the transition of children from early intervention into preschool special education and schools offering behavioral health services will remain open to do so.
FAQ About the Extended Public School Closure
Q: Will students be required to make up the missed instructional days between March 16 and April 3?
Q: How will students continue to learn for the remainder of the semester?
A: For the remaining weeks of the school year, school districts will develop a “Continuous Learning Plan” that meets the needs of their community.
Q: What does a “Continuous Learning Plan” mean?
A: Following our colleagues in Kansas, the New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) has adopted the term “continuous learning,” recognizing that instructional modalities will vary by community and, importantly, should be student-centered. Purposefully, terms such as “virtual learning,” “e-learning,” or “distance learning,” are avoided in an attempt to support the individualized learning needs of all students. New Mexico is a state that is grounded in diversity, and this strength should allow us to demonstrate equity, inclusivity, and creativity in supporting the needs of all students.
Q: How many hours of instruction should parents and children expect each day?
A: The Public Education Department recommended guidelines for maximum student commitment in terms of direct instruction each day are as follows:
- Pre-K : 30 minutes
- Grades K-1: 45 minutes
- Grades 2-3: 60 minutes
- Grades 4-5: 90 minutes
- Grades 6-12: 30 minutes per teacher (3 hours max in a day)
Q: How will the PED support students who do not have smart devices or Internet connections?
A: Internet access will be an issue for many families in New Mexico. Staff and students may lack the resources to connect remotely. PED encourages districts and charter schools to reach out to local internet service providers to see what options are available for community members. PED also encourages districts and charter schools to think about learning kits and other hands-on educational materials that meet the educational needs of students as well as family engagement needs.
PED is also looking at potential federal and state funding streams to help districts purchase things like laptops, tablets and mobile hotspots.
Q: What facilities will continue to be open?
A: School-based health centers, educational programming for youth in facilities, and licensed child care facilities (centers and homes) serving workers whose jobs have been deemed essential will continue operating.
Q: How does the school closure affect students with special needs?
A: Students with special needs will receive all feasible supports and accommodations that can be delivered while maintaining safe social-distancing. School districts must continue to support the transition of children from early intervention into preschool special education. Schools offering behavioral health services will remain open for that purpose.
Q: Will students be required to complete state assessments?
Q: How will this affect high school seniors?
A: School districts will design measures by which seniors can demonstrate eligibility for graduation. Those measures could include testing, completing a series of assignments, achieving a set score on a college entrance exam or demonstrating applied work experience. Schools will be required to identify and support students in danger of not being able to graduate.
Q: What’s the deadline for high school seniors to show they are eligible to graduate?
A: High school seniors have until June 19 to demonstrate eligibility based on their school district’s plan.
Q: What if a high school senior fails to meet the June 19 deadline?
A: High school seniors will be offered credit recovery in the summer. They can also appeal to their local school board. According to the Public Education Department, no student will be denied graduation for lack of access to demonstrate competency.
Q: Will high school graduation requirements be waived?
A: The PED waiver will remove the requirements for seniors to attend a minimum of 1,080 hours of instruction. All students are still required to complete at least 24 credits of required and elective coursework. End of semester final grades should be calculated, reported and transcripted. PED is encouraging schools and districts to adopt a pass/no credit grading system for the last grading period.
Q: What do I tell my senior who is concerned about meeting graduation requirements?
A: Schools must identify students in danger of not being able to demonstrate course completion and focus support on them. Students will have an extension until June 19 to demonstrate competency. Those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer and will have the ability to appeal to the local school board.
Q: When are high school graduation ceremonies?
A: Graduation ceremonies have been postponed.
Q: How will students take college entrance exams?
A: Some high school seniors have already taken some college entrance exams. The PED anticipate that higher education institutions will likely waive entrance exam requirements for this year. Both ACT and College Board are looking at offering exams in the summer. AP exams will be offered online for all students to access from home. Exams will last only 45 minutes and cover material that students should have covered up to March. If students need support for access or technology, we will work with districts and schools to ensure they are supported. AP exam dates will be announced by the College Board.
Q: How will students in advanced placement classes take their final exams?
A: Advanced placement exams will be offered online. Accommodations will be made for students who need access to technology to take the tests.
Q: What does this mean for school athletics?
A: Sports practices and games for the remainder of the year have been canceled. School athletics are expected to resume in the summer with practices, camps, etc. The decision about Varsity Letters will be made locally. The New Mexico Athletic Association (NMAA) rule says that if the child participates in varsity athletics or activities, they are eligible to letter. For high school students, college recruiters are leveraging game film and speaking with students and families on the phone.
Q: Will schools continue to offer meal service for students?
A: Yes. PED will continue working with districts, tribal schools, shelters, and CYFD to operate meal programs just as we have done since March 16. Additionally, PED is applying to be able to distribute EBT cards to qualifying families to purchase meals with their free breakfast/lunch allotment. Every New Mexico school district will continue to provide food to children. View school district plans: https://www.newmexico.gov/education/meal-sites-for-children/
Q: Will school employees continue to be paid?
A: Employees will continue to be paid. Districts should continue to have them perform the activities listed in the Business Operations During School Closure Memo that PED previously issued on March 17.
Q: What about contractors? Will they continue to be paid?
A: With an extended school closure, the language in bus drivers’ contracts will govern compensation. Bus contractors will be encouraged to continue to operate bus routes in order to deliver food, deliver hardcopy lessons, pick up completed work to bring back to the school, and perform any other necessary functions as requested by schools and districts. With an extended school closure, contract language will govern contractors’ compensation. Special education and other related service contractors will be encouraged to provide virtual services, collaborate with general education teachers, maintain and update documentation, and complete other activities at the direction of their schools and districts.
Q: Are public colleges and universities included in this closure?
A: No. However, most have extended their spring breaks and moved classes online. Check with the college or university for their plan.