NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart held a webinar on Friday, December 18 to provide a midyear review and to discuss what lies ahead for New Mexico public schools.

Stewart says he’s hopeful that middle and high school students will get the chance to return to the classroom next semester. “I don’t want any of our middle school or high school students to lose hope over in person learning,” said Stewart.

Stewart says in order for them to return to in-person learning, the state first has to get a grip on the number of Covid cases. As of Thursday afternoon, all 33 counties are now in the red on the state’s color-coded map. That means they have a rate of more than eight cases per 100,000 people, and or a positivity rate higher than 5-percent over a two week span.

Stewart says he is cautiously optimistic that the precautions being taken by the state will help them expand eligibility for in-person learning, in some way and that they’ll continue working with health officials and the Governor’s office on a plan. “We’re still exploring options for how we can bring our middle school and high school students back. At this time we haven’t made any changes to the current guidelines, as we continue to see where the virus goes and our ability to stop the spread of it, we may make adjustments in the future,” said Stewart.

Stewart says even if the state does give the green light for middle and high schoolers to return to in-person learning in some capacity, that decision will ultimately be left up to each school district.

The PED announced on Friday that small groups of pre-k to third-grade students and students with disabilities will be allowed to continue in-person learning during the two-week pause in January. This is a change made to plans announced earlier this month that stated there would be a pause of all in-person learning from January 2 to January 18 to avoid the post-holiday spread of COVID-19.

According to the department, the pause still affects other in-person learning and activities including athletics. Schools previously operating in the hybrid model will be able to return to their hybrid schedules the week of January 18.

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