Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Hiring is on pause at one of the largest employers in the state, Albuquerque Public Schools.
The district recently closed its Background and Fingerprinting Department, a move to beef up social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. That effectively suspends all new hires and halts incoming volunteers, according to Todd Torgerson, chief of Human Resources and Legal Services.
APS conducts background checks on prospective employees, contractors and volunteers who may work unsupervised with kids. Chief of APS Police Steve Gallegos said all incoming employees must get a background check, which is still the standard during the Background and Fingerprinting Department closure.
APS spokeswoman Johanna King said the department typically processes about 40 people a day, or roughly 200 people a week on average. Of those 200 people, about 50 are new hires, with contractors and volunteers making up the rest.
But with ramped-up efforts in New Mexico to slow the spread of the coronavirus, including a state order to close schools, hiring efforts are largely suspended.
“Background and fingerprinting is essentially shutting down because of social distancing. So what that does is kind of put a de facto pause on hiring right now for APS,” Torgerson said.
Given that this is happening toward the end of the 2019-20 school year, Torgerson projects that the district will have enough time to hire people for next school year.
Hiring of substitute teachers in APS is also on pause during the fingerprinting facility shutdown, according to the agency that manages APS’ subs, Kelly Education.
King said hiring may commence and the department could open for a temporary window to fill critical positions. For instance, if APS needs to hire more custodians, it would.
Custodial staff are a crucial piece of the workforce now more than ever as schools are being deep-cleaned during the mandatory three-week closures across the state, which began Monday. Torgerson said the vacancy rate for custodians is about a 2.4%, low compared to previous years.
He also said there is a pool of prospective workers who have already gone through the background check process and could move forward with the hiring process.
The Background and Fingerprinting Department is at APS’ administrative offices in the Uptown area, which is also largely closed to visitors. Contact APS personnel by phone or email if necessary.