New Mexico school districts weigh in on requiring teachers to return once vaccinated


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Teachers are starting to get vaccinated across the state as part of the Biden administration’s latest push, but could educators in Albuquerque be required to go back to work once they have the vaccine? This week’s decision by Santa Fe Public Schools to issue a memorandum, requiring school staff to return to work in-person if they receive the vaccine or have been offered it and turned it down — has some asking if the same thing could happen for Albuquerque Public Schools. The teachers union says it’s not likely.

“Here in APS, we’re just starting to get our people vaccinated. I don’t think we’re going to demand that people go back,” said Ellen Bernstein, president of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation. “I don’t know that APS would mandate that as soon as you’re vaccinated, come back because when you’re back in hybrid, it’s kind of just like remote, only in-person.”

Right now, APS has started small groups. The Albuquerque Teachers Federation says their position would be to go back in the full hybrid model if the county reaches the state’s green level of reopening or if teachers are vaccinated. This week, the APS school board said once the county reaches green, they will go hybrid, so ultimately, requiring teachers to return once vaccinated, would fall on APS administration. We reached out to APS to see if they would make a policy similar to that of Santa Fe’s school district but did not get a clear answer back from them.

However, the union says that may not be necessary. With small group, in-person learning beginning across APS this week, combined with increased vaccinations, the district could reach hybrid learning as early as April.

“As our county starts going green and everybody’s getting their vaccine, there’s a good chance that we might start hybrid, maybe after spring break,” said Bernstein. “I think people will feel much better starting a hybrid learning model with everybody being vaccinated.”

The New Mexico Department of Health says, so far, close to 15,000 of New Mexico’s education workforce have received at least one dose of the vaccine. That’s out of around 50,000 people working in New Mexico schools.

This comes after the Biden administration directed states to prioritize giving teachers and staff at least the first dose of the vaccine by the end of this month. The state plans to lean on the federal government for an increased supply to meet the demand of the president’s directive, without sacrificing the continued push to get shots in the arms of seniors and those with serious health conditions.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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