NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The New Mexico Public Education Department says there is very little evidence of COVID-19 spread in schools. NMPED says only nine school facilities were on the COVID-19 Watchlist Wednesday and Tuesday. Schools are placed on the Watchlist if there are at least two rapid responses within a 14-day period.
“This is great news for New Mexico schools. It shows that all the required protocols our school communities have worked so hard to put in place are, indeed, creating a safe environment for our students, educators, and school staff as we expand in-person learning,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a news release. “We are meeting our commitment to safety, and the credit goes to school administrators who put these protocols in place and are making sure they are followed.”
In comparison, on November 25, when districts were in virtual learning, 56 school buildings were on the Watchlist.
According to the same news release, all New Mexico school districts and charter schools were allowed to expand in-person learning beginning Feb. 8, and nearly 50% of public schools across the state are now offering a hybrid learning model including 40 of the state’s 89 districts and several charter schools. NMPED says about 42,000 students and 9,000 educators were on campus regularly for in-person learning.
NMPED says New Mexico public schools have a total enrollment of about 330,000 students and a total staff of about 50,000. No public school has appeared on the closure list for having four or more Rapid Responses.
Meanwhile, the Secretary for the Human Services Department Dr. David Scrase said schools are the safest place for children.
“In December, based on assumptions and rigid enforcement of mask-wearing and six-foot distancing, our modelers and folks at LANL (Los Alamos National Laboratories) say a child is safer and less likely to contact coronavirus in schools than they were outside of school,” said Dr. Scrase at a Thursday remote news conference.
Dr. Scrase also talked about hybrid learning being coupled with New Mexico Activities Association activities, something districts including Albuquerque Public Schools are asking to be separated. “My take on that is that you know there’s this infrastructure, there’s cleaning, there’s maintenance there’s a whole staff, school is set up to be safe. That’s a foundation we need in a school to build sports on top of that,” Dr. Scrase said.