ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque Public Schools Interim Superintendent Scott Elder and APS Board President Dr. David Peercy discussed the Board of Education’s decision for the district to stay with remote learning.
The decision came Wednesday night after around two dozen people gave public comment and hours of debate by the APS Board of Education. Students may return to hybrid learning if conditions change for example if teachers get vaccinated or if Bernalillo County moves into the green level.
The vote means that student-athletes will not be able to participate in fall sports including football, soccer, volleyball, and cross-country.
Based on data from the New Mexico Department of Health, it’s fair to assume most teachers could get vaccinated by May. With that safety concern taken care of, APS says in-person summer school is absolutely on the table. “We want to have schools get back as much to normal as possible, as soon as possible, so we have some plans for summer school that include face-to-face if it’s possible and include virtual if that’s the way we’re forced,” said Elder.
Elder says about half of the students want to go back to school but 66% of teachers do not feel comfortable going back. Since returning would’ve been voluntary, there may not have been enough teachers on campus to teach. Thursday, KRQE News 13 asked Elder why teachers were given the option of returning. He said if teachers were forced to do so, a different, but more permanent kind of staffing shortage could happen.
“If the teachers say, well I’m not comfortable coming back and lets just say 10% of them decide they’re going to leave whether through resignation, through retirement, whatever means… that’s about 600 teachers for Albuquerque public schools and even a small district that had 10% of its teachers leave would be hard pressed to find that to replace it,” Elder said.
Even under normal circumstances, APS often struggles with teacher shortages. Meanwhile, Elder says prom is off the table. He says the current health order wouldn’t allow for it and that it’d be very hard to enforce six-foot social distancing at a school dance.
Elder says there are things to look forward to. He expects to have small, in-person graduations and Dr. Peercy plans on teachers and students being completely back on campus this fall. KRQE News 13 asked how APS plans to track the vaccination process of teachers. A spokesperson said privacy laws prohibit employees from requesting medical information from employees and vaccines are not a condition for employment at public schools. The union says it will know when vaccinations are open to all teachers by the NMDOH and that hasn’t happened yet.