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SFPS ‘nimble’ with school year reentry plan

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

SANTA FE – Santa Fe Public Schools administrators on Tuesday introduced the district’s reentry plan for the 2020-21 school year, a year unlike any other due to restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The plan is built around a 25-page guidance document produced by the state Public Education Department. It recommends that districts follow a “hybrid” schedule, under which students attend school in person twice a week and learn from home using digital devices on the remaining three days

In Santa Fe’s case, students would be divided into two groups – one attending school in person on Mondays and Tuesdays, the other attending on Thursdays and Fridays.

If the coronavirus outbreak becomes severe enough that students must stay at home, the guidance says, districts should fall back on remote learning.

And, optimistically, a third option is a full reentry, welcoming all students and staff back to school in the traditional fashion.

Superintendent Veronica García said before the presentation at Tuesday’s school board meeting that SFPS will be ready for anything.

“I think the guidance and the health orders will change, but we are a very nimble district, fortunately, thanks to the voters of Santa Fe County,” she said. “With our children having devices, we will be able to move fairly easily between the three models.”

García was referring to voter-approved funding through property taxes that has allowed the district to provide most students with a Chromebook or an iPad.

The superintendent said two factors will determine what direction the district takes. One is a survey of staff, parents and students asking their preferences. Another is the amount of space available to maintain social distancing guidelines.

“When you have to keep them 6 feet apart, you don’t have the space that you think you have,” she said, adding that the district could resort to renting libraries, community centers or churches to expand its space.

García said teacher safety is also a concern, because one-third of SFPS teachers are 60 or older and more susceptible to the virus.

The plan calls for beginning-of-year assessments for all students to be conducted in August to help teachers identify skill gaps and academic needs.

The SFPS plan also calls for the creation of a Diversity, Equity and Engagement Department to be headed by Assistant Superintendent James Luján. The department will address civil rights and equity issues. It is the result of the district’s reorganization, combining the Community Engagement Department with Constituent Services, “but I think it’s important to elevate our eye in the district around equity,” she said.

The district’s plan is due to be submitted to PED on July 15.

The first day of school in Santa Fe is Aug. 17.

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