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RRPS board OKs initial budget, books

A Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education online meeting. Photo by Gary Herron.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Members of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education unanimously approved “a budget” for the 2020-21 school year in a online session Monday, all five of them knowing the “real budget” will look quite different.

That’s because of expected budget deficits at the state level, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, which impact school districts’ budgets. The New Mexico legislature is expected to convene in special session before July 1.

“We have balanced the budget,” Chief of Operations Mike Baker told the board. “It’s extremely likely we will have to revise the budget.”

The $166.3 million budget “is not the budget the district will operate under this year,” acknowledged Superintendent Sue Cleveland, predicting “Major changes … and some reductions.

“My heart wishes this was the budget,” she added, hoping to keep reductions “as far away from the classrooms as we can.”

In light of the expected special legislative session, she recommended that board members keep the third Monday in June as a possibility for a meeting; the board is scheduled to meet virtually June 8 and 22, but June 15 could also see them online with budget issues.

The board also approved the purchase of math textbooks for high school students.

Although there may not be students in the classrooms, at least there will be textbooks. District teachers, principals and instructional leaders were on the committee that reviewed and recommended the enVision product.

Director of Secondary Curriculum Elizabeth Jacome told the board these textbooks lead to “a deep understanding of how math works and how numbers work together.”

A similar process to determine the best math textbooks for the elementary level was used, but the board — knowing the budget deficit — opted to postpone its decision a year, and utilize the textbooks that were used in 2019-20.

The secondary math textbooks will cost $1.25 million, which will be spread over six years. The instructional materials meet the state’s Common Core standards.

“Math is critical for our students,” noted Carl Leppelman, chief academic officer. “There are no materials in the (high school) classrooms next year.”

Cleveland recommended that the board take action because it’s mandated that until all students have access to computers, which includes having them available at home with internet access, “We are required to have printed materials. … We’re close (to all-digital), but we’re not quite there.”

In other matters, board members unanimously:

• approved minutes from previous board and finance committee meetings;

• OK’d the 2020-21 IDEA B application, which would provide a $3.2 million grant to serve for students with disabilities; and

• approved a Title III local plan and bilingual multicultural program grant application for 2020-21, which helps meet the needs of high-risk students.

The board’s next meeting is slated for 5:30 p.m., also online, June 8.

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