NMPED secretary looks to expand in-person learning eligibility for schools in spring semester


SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Schools across the state are eager to get kids back into the classroom but if they weren’t using the hybrid model before the holidays, current guidelines said they can’t move into the hybrid model this semester, even if local COVID-19 rates are low. The New Mexico Public Education Department’s secretary said they’re hoping to allow more schools to reopen this semester, but they’re still working out details on how to do that.

“We’ve done multiple surveys the most recently,” said Hobbs Municipal Schools Superintendent, T.J. Parks. “One was the first week of January where 82 percent of the parents that replied to our survey in English and in Spanish, wanted their children to come back face to face.”

Hobbs Municipal Schools are desperate to get their students back in the classroom. They said each school building has been approved by the fire marshal, their ventilation systems upgraded and some of their staff has been given the vaccine. However, even with all of these safety measures, current guidelines said no matter if your county is in the red, yellow, or green phase, schools can’t move into the hybrid model, this semester if they weren’t in the hybrid model last semester.

“For us to say that where we were on August the 27th dictates where we are on January the 19th, when we know there are other counties that have a higher positivity rate doesn’t make sense to me,” said Parks.

But the state is giving hope to schools, like Hobbs, who are eager and willing for in-person learning.

“We’re in a different phase now and so I think we’re at the point where we need to reconsider what it looks like going forward,” said NMPED Secretary Ryan Stewart.

Secretary Stewart said the state would consider letting local school boards decide if they want to reopen their schools, even if the districts, like Hobbs, weren’t eligible previously. “Given in terms of what we’ve seen with the COVID safe practices that we have in place and how we operate schools safely, we certainly do think it leads to us being able to hopefully expand in-person to those schools who haven’t been in the green yet,” Secretary Stewart said.

“They just want equity,” said Parks. “They want to have the opportunity that other children have.”

Despite having some of the highest COVID rates in our state, Gallup-McKinley County schools decided to continue hybrid learning this semester. Santa Fe schools were eligible for hybrid learning this semester but decided to stick with remote learning.

Secretary Stewart said he hopes to expand eligibility for schools to move into the hybrid model as early as the 2021 spring semester but couldn’t say when that change would happen.

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