APS responds to distance learning challenges, city offers facilities

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Five days into the distanced start of Albuquerque Public Schools’ 2020-2021 school year, parents are feeling the pressure as the challenge of all-online learning takes hold. While the district is hoping distance learning is only a temporary challenge amid the pandemic, it’s also acknowledging the many parents who are struggling through the effort.

Meanwhile, the city of Albuquerque says it stands ready to allow the district to use larger and open area city properties. Mayor Tim Keller highlighted the initiative in a Tuesday news conference, saying the offer is something the city can deliver on amid the response to the coronavirus.

APS’ Executive Director of Communications Monica Armenta said Tuesday that by the end of the week, students and teachers will be fully adjusted to the virtual learning plans expected through Labor Day. The district admits that the situation is not ideal.

“This isn’t the school year that anyone imagined or wanted, but this is where we’re at,” Armenta said. “Now it’s up to all of us to come through for our students and our teachers, and the community not to lose any more time and really to step up when possible.”

Along with internet connectivity issues, APS says it’s aware many parents are having to invest a lot of time into helping their kids learn while at home, especially with younger students. “Having to rearrange life so that you can fit in the daily educational process of your student is a really heavy lift,” Armenta said. “We understand that we’re doing everything we can to try and be supportive, to make sure that we have the resources available, that teachers make contact with their students.”

The City of Albuquerque is also trying to offer help in response to the challenge of distance learning. Tuesday, the city sent a letter to APS detailing a series of ideas of how it can help the district. One of the proposed ideas involves the use of large city facilities for distanced learning spaces. The city says it would be willing to set up learning pod areas at Balloon Fiesta Park, Isotopes Park and the Albuquerque Convention Center.

“These are things other cities are using, around the country they’re using things like stadiums or convention centers to create space, when their space is limited,” said Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller. “It might be very difficult on the education side, but for the city to offer, we will step up where we’re needed and where we can, and this is a we can step up to provide more space for our kids.”

APS told KRQE News 13 Tuesday it hadn’t yet evaluated the city’s offer. The district says it has already spent time looking into outdoor schooling set-ups, however, there are concerns that have been raised about the weather and safety. “We have discussed many options for learning, and every one of them is a possibility until you can explore further,” Armenta said.

Through collective bargaining, many APS employees also have a say in the classroom set-up. The district is already dealing with around five-thousand special accommodation requests from teachers, educational assistants and other school staff.

APS has a school board meeting planned for Wednesday where board members are expected to consider other possible scenarios for distance learning or possible changes. The district says it’s also working on getting school buses loaded up with WiFi hot spots to take to different parts of the city. That service would complement the roughly 25 the City of Albuquerque has mainly at community centers.

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