New Mexico health officials, educators discussing APS re-entry plan

Education

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Wednesday, July 15, is the deadline for schools across the state to submit their re-open plans to the New Mexico Public Education Department and health officials aren’t as optimistic for in-person learning as they were when COVID-19 cases were trending downward. KRQE News 13 spoke with the state’s top doctor and local educators about the issue. New Mexico’s Medical Advisory Team has been studying what’s happening in other countries as their schools reopened to help guide plans in the state.

“One of the nuances that we’re learning from doing the reading is that what actually increases spread is not the kids going to school,” explained Dr. David Scrase, Secretary for the state’s Human Services Department. “It’s that the parents are now free with their kids in school to go out and about, have more contacts, go to stores, you know go back to work for example in person, rather than working from home.”

Dr. Scrase said teachers are in general at a higher risk than young students will be when it comes to returning to the classroom. In countries like Denmark for example, Dr. Scrase said cases were trending downward when kids went back to school and the government encouraged parents to work more effectively from home.

In parts of Germany, however, Dr. Scrase said they saw a significant increase in spread when schools reopened. They’re also seeing some teachers in the high-risk category not return to the classroom.

It’s something local educators are concerned about. “You know there’s a lot of tension between the need in the community to have their kids in school, and the safety of the kids and the staff if they do go to school, even just a little bit,” explained Ellen Bernstein, President of the Albuquerque Teachers Federation.

Bernstein sent a poll to 6,500 licensed Albuquerque educators. Most who responded said they don’t feel comfortable returning to the classroom at the start of the school year. They’d rather start online in distance learning and reassess going to the hybrid model after Labor Day if cases are trending downward. “We know in-person learning is best for kids, we want to return to in-person schooling, but we only want to do it when we know it’s safe,” Bernstein added.

The Albuquerque Public Schools reentry plan will be discussed during Wednesday night’s school board meeting. Districts will be required to make sure all schools have proper PPE for staff and cleaning supplies before they can re-open.

A statement was released Wednesday by the Albuquerque Teacher’s Federation. It read in part:

As educators, we know that real school (brick and mortar with in-person instruction) ​ is best for students. We all want to return to real school. However, real school has to be really safe for all staff and every student. We do not believe that the current data supports a safe return to in-person schooling in early August.

To read the full statement from the ATF, click here.

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