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Students to restart instruction Monday

Albuquerque Public Schools employee Mary Bodelson hands a Chromebook laptop to 17-year-old Albuquerque High School senior Aaron Bradford as the school district starts implementing distance learning because of the COVID-19 outbreak. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

A new type of school will launch for Albuquerque Public Schools students on Monday after the novel coronavirus uprooted the education system.

Students will wrap up the 2019-20 academic year from a distance and focus on critical instruction until May 21. Seniors will finish their high school careers with a pass or fail grades and modified requirements.

APS completed a 57-page continuous learning outline that guides schools and teachers during this shift as everyone adjusts to what education will look like during a pandemic.

Late last month, the administration of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for the closure of schools for the rest of the school year to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The New Mexico Public Education Department directed the state’s 89 school districts to come up with alternative ways to teach students for the rest of the school year.

“Organizations like APS had to turn on a dime. Everything was changed,” APS Superintendent Raquel Reedy said during a virtual news conference.

“On Monday, April the 13th, all students will begin distance learning via computer, with teachers teaching the curriculum,” Reedy said.

Associate Superintendent Madelyn Serna Marmol said the district submitted its plan to the PED on Wednesday morning.

It’s a strategy that has general protocols, such as grade-specific instructional time, ranging from 30 minutes in prekindergarten to three hours for high school students.

It also outlines the key curriculum that each grade should focus on. A main intent for the rest of the school year is to solidify what kids have already learned.

“We recognize the plan is in no way an adequate replacement for the rich learning experience schools provide,” district officials wrote in the planning document. It also says the district is looking at how to recover lost instructional time next school year.

School-specific plans

Day-to-day specifics will be determined at the school level.

Individual schools will create a plan tailored to their unique populations, deciding on such issues as expectations for communicating with parents and how much learning will take place online versus other resources, according to Serna Marmol.

“Every single school is writing its own individual CLP plan and the leadership team, as well as the Instructional Council – which is made up of teachers and parents – are outlining what it is that they want to do,” Reedy said.

This week, principals and teachers have been working on this, as well as training.

Serna Marmol said schools had roughly a week to prepare their plans – about the same time the district had for its outline.

While the state said instructional hours for the school year are waived for districts if they create and adhere to their continuous learning plans, Reedy stressed the importance of “attendance” during the closures.

“Attendance is as important as it ever was. … (Students) really have to be engaged in their learning, and they have to take their own responsibility for being where they need to be at the time they need to be,” Reedy said.

Grades will not be recorded for K-8 students, but there will still be feedback on their work.

Teachers will be expected to check in with every student and communicate with parents.

APS’ continuous learning plan asks educators to designate online or telephone office hours, too.

High school

At the conclusion of the spring semester, high school students will not receive A-F grades. Rather, they will pass or not pass courses.

“Basically, what it came down to was a pass or no-credit grading option doesn’t penalize any students or lower anyone’s grade point average,” said Amelia Milazzo, executive director of curriculum and instruction for APS.

If students aren’t passing a class, they will have other options to earn credit, including completing an end-of-course exam.

Serna Marmol said the expectations for seniors are designed to be more flexible and give students more time for their coursework than usual, given the pandemic.

For instance, the district will adjust the end-of-course exam passing scores lower due to the loss of instructional hours.

Also, the PED has waived the minimum instructional hour requirement for seniors.

No ceremonies

The APS continuous learning plan prioritizes at-home technology for high school seniors who don’t have devices to keep them on track to graduate.

This week, the district started passing out Chromebook laptops to families who otherwise wouldn’t have the necessary technology during school closures. Students will be expected to return them at a safer time.

Reedy said the district is also working with the city to establish internet hot spots for families.

While seniors can still earn a diploma, commencement ceremonies that would have been held in mid-May have been postponed.

“The class of 2020 is also the class who can boast they finished high school in the midst of a world pandemic,” Reedy said.

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