NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico’s Public Education Department has released the state’s plan on how to safely reopen schools in the fall.
On July 23, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced that all New Mexico Public Schools will begin the 2020-2021 school year in the distance learning mode until September 8. Below is a FAQ based on information released in the New Mexico Public Education Department Reentry plan.
Q: When will school start?
A: New Mexico Public School districts may choose to begin remote learning opportunities as early as August 3. Check with your child’s school district to find the exact start date. Right now, Albuquerque Public Schools’ tentative start date is set for August 12.
Q: When will kids be allowed to return to the classroom?
A: New Mexico Public School districts may begin a phased-in, hybrid approach on or after September 8, 2020. The phased approach will prioritize in-person learning for elementary students, gradually building to welcoming middle and high school students, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department. However, this can change pending the public health order and the status of COVID-19 in the state.
Q: Who makes decisions about public school during a global pandemic?
A: The New Mexico Department of Health and the Governor’s office determine health orders and guidelines for the state. Since New Mexico, public education exercises “local control,” school districts and charter schools will make decisions to fit the needs of their communities, according to the PED.
Q: How do I know what category my school or district is in?
A: Schools are placed in a category based on analysis of the available health data and under the guidance of the Medical Advisory Team. The PED has identified three categories for school reentry: Remote, Hybrid, Full Reentry. All schools will begin the school year in the remote category through Labor Day. As long as the pubic health conditions allow, elementary schools will be eligible to move into hybrid learning, followed by middle schools and high school.
Q: Will schools be ordered to shut down based on rates of COVID spread in surrounding regions, or just based on COVID cases in the schools?
A: According to the PED, the Department of Health will work with school leaders to determine the appropriate course of action when a case is identified. In some circumstances, only a classroom or wing of a school may need to be closed. In some cases, a full closure of the school may be necessary.
Q: What might happen if there is a COVID-19 positive case reported?
A: According to the New Mexico Public Education Department:
- If case(s) are limited to an individual classroom, then that class will be closed for cleaning. Students in that classroom and close contacts will be tested and quarantined for 14 days. They will also participate in remote learning.
- If cases are limited to a wing of a building, then rooms in the affected wing will be closed for cleaning. Students and staff in the impacted rooms and close contacts will be tested. They will also quarantine for 14 days and participate in remote learning.
- If cases spread across the building, the school building will be closed for cleaning. Students and staff in the impacted rooms and close contacts will be tested. They will also quarantine for 14 days and participate in online learning.
Q: What is a hybrid model of instruction?
A: Under a hybrid model, the number of students in the building at any time is capped by the number that can be accommodated while adhering to at least six feet of social distancing or 50% classroom capacity level. Students not in the building will engage in remote learning.
Q: What is “hybrid learning”?
A: Combination of some in-person days and some online days.
Q: Are face coverings required for staff and students at school?
A: Yes. Face coverings are required at all times except for eating, drinking and exercising.
Q: Will staff be screened daily for COVID-19?
A: Yes. All staff will be screened on a daily basis which includes temperature checks and a review of potential symptoms. If they have an internal temperature over 100.4°F, they will be sent home to self-isolate.
Q: Will students be screened before they enter the building?
A: Yes. Students will be screened before entering the building. That may include a temperature check. According to the PED Reentry Guidelines, schools will take temperature checks ideally before students enter the building. Screening procedures may differ depending on the school district.
Q: What are some of the possible hybrid learning schedules?
A: According the PED, there are few different hybrid learning schedules school districts can use.
- Alternating Days: Group A Students—Monday/Tuesday and Group B Students—Thursday/Friday. Wednesday is remote/distance learning for all students, professional learning for staff, and a day to
clean the building.
- Alternating Weeks: Group A Students—Week One and Group B Students—Week Two.
- Targeted distance/remote learning: Prioritize in-person learning for elementary students by
spreading them out across all school buildings. Have secondary students engage in remote learning.
Q: Will visitors be allowed on school campuses?
A: No. School campuses will restrict nonessential visitors and volunteers.
Q: Do schools have to have a contract tracing plan?
A: Yes. All districts/schools must work with state and local health officials to have a plan for contact tracing.
Q: How will lunch be served?
A: If schools plan to serve meals in the cafeteria:
- Mark spaced lines to enter the cafeteria and serving lines; designate entrances and exit flow paths.
- Schedule longer meal periods for more staggering meal delivery.
- Maximize social distancing to space seating and utilize outdoor seating as practicable and appropriate.
- Conduct cleaning of cafeterias and high-touch surfaces throughout the school day
If schools plan to serve meals in a classroom:
- Consider pre-packaged boxes or bags for each student instead of traditional serving lines.
- Avoid sharing of foods and utensils.
Q: What happens if a faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19?
A: The school will be closed and thoroughly cleaned. The school will not reopen until it has been cleaned. According to the PED, they recommend schools wait 24 hours before they begin to clean and disinfect.
Q: Will there be assemblies at school?
A: No. Large group gatherings will be avoided at school.
Q: Will students have to wear masks while on the bus?
Q: Will there be a limit of people on a school bus?
A: Yes. A maximum of two students may sit together on a bus seat and there will be assigned seating. No information has been released on the exact number of students that can ride a bus.
Q: Will bus drivers be required to wear masks?
A: Bus drivers, bus attendants, and students are required to wear face masks or face shields while on the bus.
Q: Will screening take place before kids get on the bus?
A: Yes. Kids will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms before they get on the bus which may include temperature checks. According to the PED, conducting temperature checks on students before they get on the bus is recommended but not required. This will vary, depending on the school district.
Q: Will bus drives and bus attendants be screened each day?
A: Yes. Bus drivers and bus attendants will be screened for symptoms of COVID-19 before they get on the bus which may include temperature checks.
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