Growing frustration from school districts trying to reopen in-person classes

Education

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – A handful of New Mexico schools welcomed students back this week. However, some school districts say they were ready to reopen and then were blindsided by the state with new rules.

“It’s frustrating and disheartening,” said Teresa Salazar, the superintendent of Moriarty-Edgewood School District. “It’s difficult for our students that were so excited about getting to come back to school and families put a crunch in their scheduling.”

Salazar said last Friday her district was approved by the state’s Public Education Department to reopen this week. Salazar said they were blindsided on Sunday with new COVID-19 guidelines when the department told them they didn’t meet the proper requirements when it comes to ventilation in the schools. 

“It’s frustrating, just the last minute changes and the communications and I know that there’s always things that are changing, and this one kind of seems like something that should’ve been known in advance,” said Salazar.  

They’re not the only district that has had issues with the abrupt changes in requirements. Eugene Schmidt, the Farmington Municipal Schools’ superintendent said they were approved too. But were then told they didn’t meet the ventilation requirements either.

“More kids can be in a daycare center than I can have in kindergarten,” said Schmidt. “And so I don’t understand the inconsistency of all of these different guidelines that are being issued.”  

Deborah Martinez, a spokesperson with the Public Education Department did not say what prompted the new rules but did send KRQE News 13 the following statement:

Secretary Stewart is grateful for the way New Mexico’s district and charter school staff have stepped up to prepare their classrooms for reentry, including having to change course in various ways as this worldwide pandemic has upended school leaders’ and families’ best-laid plans. 

Our best collective tools are to mask up and stay home as much as possible so that COVID-19 positive cases diminish and in-person classes can fully resume. 

The PED will continue to support and work with our district leaders as we follow Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s public health order to ensure a safe, healthy, and productive school year. We will share additional information on HVAC filtration systems as soon as it becomes available.”          

Both Moriarty-Edgewood and Farmington School Districts plan on making the necessary changes. Moriarty-Edgewood plans on announcing when to begin in-person classes next Monday. While Farmington hopes to reopen in October. 

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