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APS preps for 2020-21 school year reopening

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

With classes set to begin Aug. 12, Albuquerque Public Schools is preparing for several back-to-school possibilities, including a hybrid model of at-home and in-person learning.

Reopening models were presented to the Board of Education on Wednesday night, despite uncertainties.

Still, APS officials have road maps for three scenarios: in-person school, at-home learning and a hybrid of the two.

“While I cannot say with certainty which we will open in, I believe it is very possible that we may move through each of them over the course of the academic year,” said Scott Elder, chief operations officer and soon to be acting superintendent.

A major factor in the unpredictability is that it’s unclear what the status of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent health orders will be in August. How APS moves forward is informed by the state’s reopening.

Also, a special legislative session on June 18 could affect public school funding.

“We do not know our actual budget for the coming year and can’t know until the 18th, and we’re not sure about the health recommendations for the coming year and, of course, these things will drive which model of instruction we will use in the coming school year,” Elder said.

If in-person schooling were to take place, the district is considering such adjustments as no-contact recess, lunchtime in classrooms and mitigating bus usage, in addition to ramped-up cleaning.

There’s also a contingency in which students do some learning in the classroom and some learning at home.

That could look like children attending school two days a week or alternating the weeks they go into the classroom, the district’s reentry document says. Half-days for elementary students are also on the table.

In a virtual model, the district is proposing daily video classes or other online course options.

“While a college can move to an online model, it’s much harder for us to make the same decision,” Elder said, noting that’s especially true for younger pre-kindergarten and elementary school students.

Each scenario brings fiscal and logistical hurdles. Teams will be working out details around precautions, including social distancing and sanitation, and how to foster students’ emotional well-being, associate superintendent Madelyn Serna Mármol told the board.

APS’ 2019-20 school year just wrapped up from a distance after schools across the state were shut down due to coronavirus.

Schools will be faced with overcoming the resulting learning loss and other ripple effects of school closures.

The state Public Education Department put together a School Reentry Task Force to aid in creating contingency plans for returning to school, but official guidance hasn’t been released yet.

“We recognize there is tremendous pressure to return children to school for two reasons. One: the economy needs parents to be able to return to work and they need a place to know that their children are safe. And two: we still as a state need to push for superior academic outcomes,” Elder said.

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