Rio Rancho Public Schools pushes start date back for in-person learning


RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – The Rio Rancho School Board voted on Monday night to push back in-person learning until after Labor Day, modifying their original re-entry plan. Students will begin virtual-only learning on August 7. School board members voted 3-to-2 that students will not return to the classroom until September 8.

Under their original re-entry plan approved by the board last week, parents would be able to choose between two options. Each child would either start the year online or enter a hybrid model. Under the hybrid model, kids grades 4-12 would go to school two days a week split up by the last name, and learn from home the other three days. Children K-3 would go to school four days a week.

Monday night’s move by the board will now take that decision away from parents until September. All students will be online until the Tuesday after Labor Day. Then, parents can either decide to keep their kids home or sign up for the hybrid model. Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland said she recommended the modification following a push from parents and teachers to wait to return to in-person classes. She also said staffing is a concern.

“We thought we were close to being fully staffed and what is disconcerting right now is that the resignations are beginning to come in,” Cleveland said. “We do not have as of yet people to fill those jobs.”

She said they are working on getting full-time subs to be available to step-in when needed. While some school board members shared concerns about starting the year online-only, the superintendent said they are looking to Rio Rancho Cyber Academy as a model for online learning for the rest of the district. Several board members talked about the division this issue has created in the community.

“This community is very divided about this,” board member Catherine Cullen said. “I have been on the board for seven years. This is the biggest division I have seen on any type of subject matter. Some people want to go fully traditional, and some just want to stay virtual.”

Superintendent Cleveland said pushing the start date back for in-person classes will give them time to make sure technology at home is working and hopefully allow COVID-19 cases to decline over the next few weeks. The school board said their plan is subject to change based on the virus and the governor’s public health orders.

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