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Amid closures, one Española school turns to online classes

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced March 12 that all public schools in New Mexico would close for three weeks because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

For Cliff Tompson, principal of Carlos Vigil Middle School in Española, three weeks or more of zero instruction was not an option.

The school finished 2019 with 7% of students proficient in math and 12% proficient in reading, scores that Tompson said would be hard to improve if students are not in class.

“That’s a bit unsettling, that in the year 2020 that teaching and learning must necessarily come to a stop,” he said.

In response, the school has turned to online education programs to bridge the learning gap created by the closures. It is the only school in the district doing so.

Multiple schools in the Española School District have relied on the learning software program Edgenuity for multiple years, mostly as a substitute for when teacher positions remain vacant.

While Edegnuity is typically used only for a couple of classes, it will now be made available to nearly all of the 500 students at the middle school, Tompson announced in a letter to parents.

“Parents and guardians, we graciously ask that, if possible, you instruct your child to complete their coursework in Edgenuity,” he wrote.

The language of the statement highlights the main hurdle the school faces in launching the program – for some students, learning on Edgenuity is not possible.

Only 52% of households in Rio Arriba County have internet subscriptions in their home, according to the United States Census Bureau, leaving many students without the ability to complete Edegnuity courses at home or in libraries, which have been closed.

Trina Lujan, an instructional coach who helped the school launch the Edgenuity program, said lack of internet makes it hard to encourage students to participate in an optional program that does not affect their grades.

“That’s really tricky, because not all students have access to the resources,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to give an incentive when some students are left out and it’s not their choice to be left out.”

The benefits, however, are worth it no matter how many students use Edgenuity, Lujan said.

“If even one student takes advantage of it, that’s one student we were able to help,” she said.

For now, the school is offering Edgenuity courses on math and English, although social studies and science might be offered if closures go on past three weeks.

Tompson said that the courses will not cost the district additional money since administrators have already purchased the Edgenuity licenses and teacher pay remains unaffected by the closures.

He said that while some students may face difficulty in accessing Edgenuity, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

“Not doing anything is the most unsatisfactory action we can take, given that we have an option available to us,” he said.

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