ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – While a full hybrid schedule is off the table, for now, Albuquerque Public Schools is seeing some students return to the classroom this week. A few schools are kicking off small group, in-person learning. After a long year without in-person learning, educators we spoke with say they’re ready to get kids back in the building — including the sounds that come with it.
“Next week it’s been a year since we’ve had any students on campus and so we’re really excited to bring in even just a handful,” said Jaclyn Bogue, principal at Sierra Vista Elementary. “Just to hear noise and chaos and a little bit of laughter I think is what is getting me really excited.”
Starting Thursday, Sierra Vista Elementary is bringing about 130 students back. Those groups include the students most in need of academic help and social engagement.
“We’re going to bring kids back for two days a week for three hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Bogue. “65 square feet per child is what we’re using as our rule of thumb for how many students can fit into a classroom.”
Class sizes will be around 8-to-1 with a smaller size of 6-to-1 for kindergarten. Outside distance markers will keep the kids apart as best as possible.
According to APS, principals are still submitting small group learning plans, but some of the schools starting back this week include San Antonito and Carlos Rey Elementary. On Tuesday, Early College Academy welcomed students back in small groups for their morning core classes.
“To see the excitement of our kids, our freshmen who have never even been on campus until today, that was super exciting for them,” said Patrick Arguelles, principal at Early College Academy. “I had tears in my eyes this morning and I’ve had goosebumps all day, just seeing students interacting with teachers face to face. It’s not as many as I’d like, but it’s small group learning and it’s amazing.”
Their school has about 100 kids returning in the morning separated into different days of the week. Cohort A will come on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while cohort B will attend on Thursdays and Fridays. On Wednesday evenings, a crew comes in to deep clean the rooms. While many continue their learning from home, the school says it’s great to get those most in need back in class.
“Last year, we had a 98.5-percent graduation rate. Highest in the city, and we get there because we work with these kids, face-to-face, we work with them every day, so COVID has been especially difficult for us,” said Arguelles. “Kids walked on the campus and they were nervous, they were excited, they were apprehensive, they were giddy. It was everything, all at the same time. Hearing the footsteps, I will never take that sound for granted again.”
At least 20 APS schools opened to small groups this week, with that number expected to grow. Just over 1,300 students in the district will return in small groups this week. APS says the number of students returning varies by school, with some as few as 14 and others as many as 300.