Schools prepare to return from holiday break as COVID cases rise

Education

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Most New Mexico kids return to school on Tuesday, Jan. 4 after the Christmas break, and as COVID-19 cases surge, there is concern about what that will look like. In Los Lunas, the district has asked teachers and staff to self-test before returning.

The superintendent says the district does have high vaccination rates among staff but they have already had some positive cases that will require the preschool at Tome Elementary to start the semester off in virtual learning. He says they do expect more schools and classrooms to be affected in the weeks to come. The good part is that it’s not like last year, where entire schools or districts have to be shut down for a few cases.


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“Secretary Steinhaus has worked really hard to try to give that ability down to the local level– that decision making. And that has worked out well because across the state if you have an urban setting versus a rural setting, there’s different circumstances. I do have found that in our district, where we maybe have the have resources to keep things going at one site versus another site, and so we are able to make a local decision based on the specifics of that environment,” said Arsenio Romero, superintendent of Los Lunas schools.

Los Lunas has also been working through the break to clean and prepare classrooms to make them as COVID-safe as possible.

Meanwhile, KRQE News 13 reached out to Albuquerque Public Schools, a district spokesperson says for now all COVID-safe measures and rules remain in effect. On Monday afternoon, APS send out a news release with the following layered approach to COVID safety and threshold considerations for schools to implement:

  • Upon a school reaching a threshold of 3% or more of its population (students & staff) while infectious in the past 14 days, enhanced COVID-19 safe practices shall be recommended. District personnel will conduct a site visit, meet with school administration to ensure compliance with current practices, and provide recommendations for enhanced mitigation strategies. 
  • A school reaching a threshold of 5% or more of its population (students & staff) while infectious in the past 14 days will require enhanced COVID-19 safe practices. District personnel will conduct a site visit, meet with school personnel to ensure compliance with current practices, and provide recommendations and identify required enhanced mitigation strategies.
  • 7‐14 days after a school is required to implement enhanced COVID-19 safe practices, the rate of current COVID‐19 cases will be reviewed, and a follow‐up site visit shall be conducted to determine if additional mitigation strategies are necessary.
  • 14‐21 days after a school is required to implement enhanced COVID-19 safe practices, the rate of current  COVID‐19 cases will be reviewed. Enhanced mitigation strategies will be lifted when district personnel confirm current COVID‐19 cases are below 3% of the school’s population (students & staff) in the past  14‐21 days.
  • Additional threshold levels will be considered if needed to determine classroom/school closures (e.g., lack of staff to provide a safe adult to student ratio, an indication of school spread, or other related contributing factors).

As always, districts are asking parents to keep their kids home if they are sick. The districts do anticipate more guidance in the coming days from the state since the federal COVID isolation guidelines have been changed.

Copyright 2022 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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