Education officials get close-up look at COVID-safe protocols in NM schools


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The secretary of the New Mexico Public Education Department toured some Albuquerque schools Thursday morning, taking a look at all of the new COVID-safe practices being implemented. Secretary Ryan Stewart spoke with the administration and a handful of students Thursday morning, about how they’re feeling after the first few days back on campus.

One of the students on that tour told Secretary Stewart, it’s hard adjusting to smaller crowds in passing periods. “We are a really big school, the hallways used to be crowded. Now there’s maybe four kids on your way to class,” she explained.

Public education leaders visited schools across New Mexico all week, including Los Lunas, Aztec, and Santa Fe. The principal of Atrisco Heritage, Irene Cisneros, showed Secretary Stewart how they’re adjusting. They’ve created an isolation room, where students are placed if they’re experiencing COVID-like symptoms, desks are set up outside to accommodate students eating lunch, and even outdoor, socially distanced Mariachi practice.

KRQE News 13 asked Secretary Stewart, with recent school closures like the one at Eldorado High School on Monday, if there are any plans to change the Rapid Response protocol so that schools can remain open even if there are four cases in two weeks. “As of right now, there’s no conversations about changing the number,” said Stewart. “I think what we’re seeing is schools aren’t showing to be big vectors of spreading the virus, and the measures we have in place are working to identify those instances when they come onto a campus and isolate them before we see the big spread in a school community.”

Stewart also addressed the recent closure of Mesa Alta Junior High School in Bloomfield, saying they’re encouraging all educators to get the vaccine, but cannot force teachers to get the shot if they don’t feel comfortable doing so. Stewart says right now it’s not a widespread issue and has been an isolated incident, but they’ll continue to monitor the situation. On top of that, Stewart says they’re working with the New Mexico Department of Health to get as many teens 16 and older vaccinated.

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