RIO RANCHO, N.M. (KRQE) – Rio Rancho Public Schools have decided to go back to online learning only ahead of the holidays. The district will be virtual-only November 23 through January 18.
Kindergarten through fifth graders have been in the hybrid model since September, but there are big concerns about upcoming holiday travel. “We are talking about choices, but realistically, do we have a choice,” school board member Catherine Cullen asked.
The district is currently conducting a survey of holiday travel plans. So far, 28 percent of students and staff report having travel plans for Thanksgiving. For Christmas, that number is 40 percent. The district said there is no way they would have enough teachers to staff the schools in-person for hybrid learning following the holidays due to the mandatory 14-day self-quarantine in effect.
Cases in Sandoval County are more than triple what they were a month ago, and school officials believe it is a matter of time before they see a significant rise in the school buildings. Since the hybrid model started, hundreds of teachers have been quarantined. Well over 20 staff members have tested positive, and one student is critically ill.
Dr. Jason Mitchell with Presbyterian helped develop modeling for schools with the Los Alamos National Lab earlier this year, saying at the time that a hybrid model could be safe when the positivity rate is below five percent and rate of transmission is one or less. Mitchell said we are exceeding all of those markers now. “We are in a significant growth phase,” Mitchell said. “The positivity rate is ranging between 10 and 20 percent which means uncontrolled spread of COVID.”
The district added that based on the new school closure requirements that force schools to shut down if there are four positives within a 14-day period, two Rio Rancho Public Schools have already had to close. The district said their travel survey closes tomorrow afternoon, and they will have the full results Monday.