ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The Albuquerque Public School Board of Education on Friday explained how the district will reopen for in-person learning starting April 5, while dealing with a serious shortage of bus drivers. Students are welcome to go back in-person five days a week, but can opt to continue remote learning.
“There will be times during the day that the teachers will need to teach both their remote and their in-person students simultaneously so in-person students will have to bring their devices to class,” said APS interim Superintendent Scott Elder.
Elder says the district meets the state’s criteria for ventilation and cleaning protocols. He adds that now that the state is prioritizing educators, they’re already seeing an uptick in the number of teachers getting the vaccine.
They also plan to host six vaccination clinics next week for district staff across the city. School staff will return to their buildings on March 29 while instruction remains remote and small groups continue until students return April 5.
Staff considered high-risk are able to wait two weeks post-vaccine before returning in-person. Buses will start running on April 5 but not in full service.
“Currently, we have 200 drivers that are on staff, usually we need over 400. We have begun the process, we have reached out to our contractors last Monday and said, ‘You need to start trying to bring people back,'” Elder explained.
Until the district hires more drivers, it will prioritize busing special education students and districts that require more support. The Department of Workforce Solutions has agreed to host a rapid hire fair to get more bus drivers. It’s unclear if they’ll be through the background check process and vaccinated by April 5.
The district is encouraging families to get their kids to and from school if possible. The City of Albuquerque will also be letting students under 18 ride city buses for free.
APS Reentry Plan
- Because some students will continue to learn at home, students who return to their schools will be expected to bring their fully charged APS-issued technology devices (Chromebooks or iPads) to class with them every day.
- The district is asking that families provide transportation to and from school for their children when possible. APS probably won’t have enough bus drivers to resume all routes, so it will prioritize transportation services to areas with the highest needs. Students will be able to ride city buses for free. Walking groups and carpools are encouraged.
- Students will be required to wear face masks throughout the day. While they are expected to provide their own masks, spares will be available for students who forget.
- Breakfast and lunch will be served at school and will be available to pick up for students who continue to learn remotely. Times and locations for grab-and-go meals are still being worked out, but they probably will be moved from school sites to more centralized locations. Students at school will be encouraged to eat outside when possible, and lunch schedules will be staggered to avoid large groups.
- Students and staff will be expected to social distance to the greatest extent possible, which means no large group activities or gatherings such as field trips, assemblies, and end-of-year festivals. APS does plan to hold limited in-person high school graduations in mid-May.
- School custodians will make it a priority to clean high-touch surfaces and to stock bathrooms with soap and classrooms with hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies.
- The district will soon make available school safety checklists that include information on ventilation, personal protective equipment, fire marshal inspections, safety checks, and more.
- Windows and doors in classrooms and schools and air conditioning dampers will be kept open to allow for the circulation of fresh air, which could lead to fluctuating temperatures during the school day. Students are encouraged to dress in layers and bring jackets with them. Students who need jackets, other clothing or school supplies can get assistance through the APS Community Clothing Bank. Ask your teacher, counselor, or school social worker for assistance.
- Students won’t be allowed to use water fountains. Instead, water stations will be available to fill up reusable bottles.
- Volunteers won’t be allowed on campus.
- Child care will continue on campuses where it normally is provided.
- Families who withdrew their children from APS schools due to the pandemic will have an opportunity to re-enroll for in-person learning. Contact your child’s school for more information.
- Standardized tests will be optional but not mandatory for most students. More information will be provided by your child’s school.