ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Parents and students are reacting Thursday to Albuquerque Public Schools’ decision to stay virtual, saying they feel like no one is listening to them. Many students who looked forward to returning in-person and even getting back to team sports say last night’s decision did not have their best interests at heart. “Your choices continue to rob us of in-person learning and sports,” one student said during the public comment period of Wednesday night’s meeting. “I’m failing all my classes,” another student said.
These are just some of the voices of APS students ahead of the vote. Now, with the district deciding to remain virtual for the rest of the school year, many students aren’t happy. “So many people showed up to support the idea of going back and despite that, the board sort of blew that off,” said Adrian Jaquez, a senior at Cibola High School. “I think a lot of seniors, feel robbed, really. We haven’t really had a chance to enjoy our senior year.”
Jaquez spoke during the board meeting. He feels like the district needs to do more to listen to students. “I definitely think a lot of students’ voices haven’t been heard and the students, themselves, kind of feel unconsidered. If you look at our failure rates and everything else, everything skyrocketed through virtual learning,” said Jaquez. “We are the yellow right now and we should be back in school.”
Jaquez isn’t the only one who feels that way. Isaiah Garcia, a junior at Manzano High School says he feels like the board had their mind made up before the meeting even started. “Whatever they thought, is what they were set on, no matter what we had to say,” said Garcia.
Mark Gonzales is a senior at Eldorado High School. With a second baseball season impacted, he says it’s devastating. “I only have a couple more months left and I plan on going out of state for college and I haven’t seen any of my friends, due to COVID, in a while,” said Gonzales. “As a baseball athlete, this is the second time it’s happened to me. Our season was cut short last year, and now, just to hear yesterday that we’re not going to have a season this year, it’s just crazy.”
Not all students were in favor of going back, telling the school board about the responsibility of implementing masks and distancing, as well as the risk for those who live with grandparents. However, many parents KRQE spoke with, say that shouldn’t impact the students who do want to return in-person, since the state’s Public Education Department ruling did give the option for students to remain virtual if they didn’t want to return in-person.
“Not one time at that board meeting last night, did they mention our children. They did not. It had nothing to do with our children,” said Michelle Jenson, who recently moved her student out of APS and into Rio Rancho Public Schools. “You had 344 days to make this happen. They should be ready tomorrow.”
Other parents agreed. Some say it’s time to rethink the district, itself, after Wednesday night’s hour-long debate. “What we need to do here in Albuquerque is if it’s too big, let’s split this district up into two to four school districts,” said Leah Rice, a parent of a La Cueva student. “Because obviously, our board couldn’t handle it.”
APS Interim Superintendent Scott Elder says about half of the district’s students wanted to come back, but 66% of teachers were not comfortable returning. The APS School Board President says going back to a hybrid model wouldn’t improve the students learning situation, because they’d still be working online. Some students disagree saying just being in a classroom would be a big help.
“It’s super hard to get out of bed in the morning,” said Cibola High School Senior Taylor Christiansen. “To just roll over, open up your computer, and decide I’m not going to turn mym camera on today. I’m not going to participate,” said Christiansen.
During the board meeting, one of the board members mentioned about 16,000 APS students are failing right now. The district says they’re working on ways to get those who need extra help, back to campus.
The board says the hybrid plan could go back in action if Bernalillo County moves into the Green Level or if teachers get vaccinated if there’s still enough time left in the school year.