GALLUP, N.M. (KRQE) – Students across the state are gearing up to return to school in-person. McKinley County is one district that brought back students Tuesday. It’s back to school in February. “I feel excited,” student Hannah Corral said. “At first I was like, is this a dream?”
McKinley Academy in Gallup welcomed nearly half of its freshman class back Tuesday for in-person learning. “It is nice, and you get to socialize and not be by yourself,” Corral said. “You get to see everybody. You get to see your teachers for the first time.”
Students haven’t been back to school in nearly a year. “One of my teachers had March 11, 2020, written on his whiteboard still,” principal Sharmyn Munoz said.
Some said their grades suffered during that time and hope returning to class will get them back on track. “I haven’t been really motivated when I am home,” student Kiana Curly said. “When I am here at school, I am more motivated and into school.”
Everyone was required to wear masks, and students were spaced six feet apart throughout the day. Munoz said everything was sanitized between class changes. “They get scanned for a temperature check,” Munoz said. “They sign in. They have to sign a COVID survey for UNM upon entering every day just like the staff does.”
Two weeks ago, the governor gave K-12 schools the green light to reopen in a hybrid model starting Monday. Munoz said their parent-teacher conferences were already scheduled for Monday, so they brought students back immediately after. “I was in the building by myself from March through the end of June,” Munoz said. “That was the toughest time in my 23 years of being an educator. Today, there was life in the building.”
Students said they are happy to be back on campus. “It is really nice, and everyone is taking the proper precautions because everyone wants to see each other and stuff,” Corral said.
The school is an early college program where students can get their associate’s degree as a senior while graduating from high school. Munoz said the older students are continuing online because the University of New Mexico Gallup is virtual only through the semester. Munoz said freshmen are currently going into school four days a week.