NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Every school district in the state now has the option to start bringing students of all ages back to campus, for in-person, hybrid learning. The governor announcing students can return starting Feb. 8. The New Mexico Public Education Department held a news conference with more specifics on what that looks like.

The option to move to hybrid learning is up to each individual district. Some districts are already doing hybrid learning for elementary students but this new choice means middle and high school students could head back to campus for the first time in nearly a year.

“There’s no substitute for in-person learning. And there’s no negotiating about the health and safety of students, families, and educators. I believe the planning and hard work has paid off, and our state has developed a solid, epidemiologically-sound plan for a safe expansion of in-person learning for all age groups,” said Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Districts have three options, first is the hybrid option for elementary, middle, and high school students will bring up to 50% of students back at a time. Districts with fewer than 100 students can bring back all students in a 5-to-1 ratio with no more than 6 people in a classroom. Districts of schools that are not ready to welcomes students back in a full hybrid model may expand smaller group instruction to all grades with a 5-to-1 ratio of students to teachers.

Secretary for the Human Services Department Dr. David Scrase says studies from around the world and in New Mexico, show that the number of infections in both teachers and students actually related to school is very small.

“This is a combination graph of all staff and student cases… the most infections we had related to school was about 200 and that was probably in a week where we had close to 10,000 cases, so very, very small percent of overall cases,” Dr. Scrase said.

Even if their schools move to hybrid, families can opt to have their students stay at home. Albuquerque Public Schools has not made a decision on bringing students back to school, saying they were waiting to see what the NMPED secretary had to say during Tuesday’s news conference. NMPED did say that schools will continue sports and extracurricular practices in a 5-to-1 ratio until Feb. 22. If the COVID numbers stay steady, they will look at allowing competitions but only schools in hybrid learning will be allowed to take part.