SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Santa Fe Public Schools is being recognized nationally for how they used federal funding during the pandemic in their elementary and secondary schools. Hilario Chavez was one of two superintendents in the country who was on a call Thursday with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden. She recognized them for how they used the funding to support students’ health and safety.

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“It’s great when your are recognized nationally for doing the work that really contributes to better outcomes. Not only for students but also staff,” said Hilario Chavez, SFPS Superintendent.

Chavez says the plans for the more than $21 million in federal pandemic relief funding include mental health and wellness initiatives, a 3-year plan to address learning loss due to the pandemic, and retaining and recruiting more employees. The district also wants to focus on attendance by hiring attendance coaches to help remind students of the importance of showing up to school.

“We want to address that because we do know if you’re not in school, you’re not learning. We want to ensure that all of our schools are in class and they’re able to learn. And that goes along with health and school wellness. We want to make sure they’re healthy, they’re safe, and that they’re thriving in their environment,” said Chavez.

The district will also pay school counselors ten additional days to better prepare for the school year and give them more time to reach out to students and their families. Chavez also said money from a state grant has gone towards Covid testing sites for students and staff. Thanks to their recruitment efforts, Chavez said the district is currently at a 4% vacancy rate for teachers and is only 1 bus driver short for that specific department.