ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Students at Albuquerque Public Schools will continue remote learning for the remainder of the semester. After about two-dozen people gave public comment and hours of debate by the APS Board of Education, they decided to stay with remote learning until conditions change.

“Just to summarize, probably too much churn to actually try to change this at this point in time for a few days and we think that the model right now is probably as good, educationally, as to try to do it otherwise. But I think we can help the kids who are having trouble,” Board President Dr. David Peercy, said.

If conditions change like teachers get vaccinated or the Bernalillo County moves into the Green Level, then students may return to hybrid. One board member says about 16,000 kids are receiving failing grades. The board said the school district should work on ways to identify students who may need extra help and figuring out a way for them to come back to campus in small groups now.

The decision comes after the voluntary hybrid model that was proposed came with some big hurdles. The vote on Wednesday also means student-athletes will not be able to participate in fall sports, including football, soccer, volleyball and cross-country. Fall sports were delayed because of the pandemic.

“The board asked for a proposal based on a voluntary reentry and we’ve received one with a heavy emphasis ultimately that is a lack on available staff and I am desperately, desperately trying to find a middle ground,” Board member Elizabeth Armijo, said.

Interim Superintendent Scott Elder says about half of the school district’s students want to come back, but 66% of teachers don’t feel comfortable coming back. Some grade levels may have not had teachers who wanted to go back, in which case students who wanted to go into hybrid would have to stay remote. “If their teachers don’t volunteer to come back parents aren’t going to have a classroom for their kids,” Elder explained.

The board also discussed the inequity of the volunteer model since teachers would have the option to stay remote but other employees like custodians and nurses would have to be on-site in order for a school to open. The district is also facing a lack of bus drivers and weren’t able to hire before a decision by the board was made regarding hybrid model since a start-date is needed to contract out-of-house drivers.

The board also stressed that hybrid would not look like normal school due to the COVID-19 safety measures in place. “I want us to be very clear and transparent about what it’s going to look like. And if they choose to come back then ok. That’s fine. But I want them to know they’re not going to be socializing. They’re not going to be dancing around and hugging each other,” Dr. Peercy said. During the meeting, it was discussed that hybrid learning will look similar to virtual learning just in a classroom setting.

The board is also considering writing a resolution to the governor asking teachers to be prioritized for vaccinations.