RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Big Brother may not be watching you, but he’ll know what your body temperature is.
Anticipating a state mandate for students to have their temperatures checked before entering school buildings in the 2020-21 school year, the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education, by a 4-1 vote Monday evening, approved the expenditure of $159, 253 for 71 GoSafe tablets.
These GoSafe tablets can measure a person’s temperature from 3 feet away, and have attendance and facial-recognition components. Board member Catherine Cullen, casting the lone dissenting vote, said she was concerned about possible legal issues if the facial recognition feature of the device was used.
“Facial recognition is a bonus for a lot of reasons,” said Mike Baker, chief of operations. And, “Yes, it is very expensive,” he acknowledged, stressing, “(We want) to mitigate to the best of our ability the spread of this disease.”
Superintendent Sue Cleveland cautioned that if the board was to defer or vote against the expenditure and incoming student temperature checks were mandated by the state, RRPS might not be able to find devices still for sale and, “(The district) will be hard-pressed to get them here by the first day of school.”
That date, she surmised, could be Aug. 1 or 12; Albuquerque Public Schools buildings are expected to open Aug. 12.
Each school will be provided with tablets, as will the district office and the RRPS warehouse. Students with body temperatures of 100 degrees or more will quickly be ushered into a safe room at the school, where there will be an attendant.
The board may also soon opt to purchase 61 less-expensive, no-contact temperature scanners, similar to those now in use at area hospitals, for all of the district’s school buses.
With those purchased, students may be sent into the schools quicker to begin the school day. Bus riders would be scanned as they board the buses, and then each school would have one entrance for the bus riders and another for those students walking or using another mode of transportation.
Once the students were in the classrooms — and that format for learning hasn’t been determined yet — they’ll find their teachers wearing face shields, not masks, it seems. Cleveland said students learn better, especially before they enter high school, by seeing facial expressions of their teachers.
New Mexico has one of the highest percentages of young people infected with COVID-19 — around 13 percent, compared to a national average of 3.2 percent. And 25 percent of the state’s teachers and 34 percent of the principals are over age 55, according to a recent report from the American Enterprise Institute — an age group has particular vulnerabilities to the virus.
So this is an age group that likely can retire — and would — should they feel at risk, but that would leave students without experienced teachers.
In other matters on Monday, the board:
- Heard reports from two more of the task forces (Reopening Schools and Health and Safety), which included recommendations on sanitizing schedules for the buildings, buses and large areas; safety training for staff, families and students; and the challenges of social-emotional learning and mental-health supports;
- Approved expenditures for materials for the expanded CTE program;
- OK’d the expenditure of $30,000 for Chromebooks, thus having enough to ensure every student will get one;
- Decided to enter a two-year (and expected to continue much longer) lease with Julian Garza for a 3,600-square-foot building on Northern Boulevard, a former daycare site, to be the Enchanted Mesa Day Care center, previously at the former site of Shining Stars Preschool. EMDC is for children of RRPS employees, and is self-sustaining, Cleveland said, as users pay for the services. Included in the board’s approval was an expenditure of $25,000-$28,000 for renovations and to expand outside the play area;
- OK’d in its second reading the changes made to Policy 208 (Meetings of the Board), basically outlining how virtual meetings will be run in times of emergency; and
- Approved the 2020-21 school year board schedule of two meetings per month, except one each in December and March.
The school board has another virtual meeting Monday at 5:30 p.m., when the final task force will present communication strategies for the coming school year. View it by going to the link at rrps.net.