Bill giving school boards authority to reopen during public health orders stalls

Education

SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – A bipartisan push to let local school boards decide if schools should reopen and how in a public health emergency, has stalled in the Roundhouse. Backers of the idea say what happens in Roswell during a pandemic, might not be comparable to Taos. So there shouldn’t be a blanket policy on schools.

“I think it’s time for local communities to have that responsibility rather than a medical team or one individual in this state making those decisions,” said Sen. Gay Kernan (R-Hobbs). What the bill does is give local school boards the power to move classes from online to hybrid and then eventually full time in person. Students told lawmakers they’re in support of this because they’re eager to get back to class and get back to their extracurricular activities.


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Education advocates also spoke out in favor because they like how school boards would be required to use data and info from the CDC to decide what to do. As you can imagine, the idea has its critics. “Nobody denies this is not as good of an education as in person, nobody does. Nobody denies we ought to have our kids back in school full-time face-to-face when it’s safe but this is a health emergency and when we have health emergencies, I do not believe we should be taking authority away from those who have to make the very difficult decision about how to protect public health,” said Sen. William Soules (D-Las Cruces).

Some lawmakers were worried that any future public health emergencies could put the local community’s health in jeopardy if the school boards have the final say. Ultimately, lawmakers were split on the Senate Bill 171, they were unable to pass it and move it on to the next committee.

Now, the bill could be reworked and brought back up again or it could stay on the shelf. The governor announced last month that school districts could reopen for hybrid learning starting Monday if they wanted to under certain guidelines. Some argue schools in some areas should have been able to do so earlier safely if they had more power.

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