Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Albuquerque Public Schools unveiled plans for what the 2020-21 academic year could look like should schools reopen this year, proposing a remote start, then transitioning to a schedule that would alternate between in-person classes and distance learning.
APS is slated to start online the week of Aug. 12. The technology department has a plan to make sure students have access to devices.
Under the plan, the earliest classrooms would open – with 50% of the student population at one time – is Sept. 8, which was pushed back from the original proposal of Aug. 25.
When schools open for in-person learning, Acting Superintendent Scott Elder said the plan is to divide students into two cohorts based on their last names – group A through L and group M through Z – which would attend school on a rotating schedule.
While one group attends in-person class Tuesday through Friday, the other group would learn from home. A deep clean would happen on Mondays, while all students learn remotely, and then the other cohort would attend in-person school for the week.
Elder said this allows siblings to attend school at the same time. If families have different last names, they can work with the school to get on the same schedule.
He added that parent feedback has been split on the model and a major concern is finding childcare.
Elder emphasized “the plan we are submitting is as of July 15” and can change, especially if there is new direction from the state.
Reopening schools may ultimately be halted. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that start dates could be pushed back by several weeks or into the winter depending on coronavirus data.
Campus safety, cleaning
Districts throughout New Mexico have been prepping based on a reentry framework released by the state Public Education Department in June that outlined some requirements for back to school, including rapid response testing programs for staff, social distancing, and the use of face coverings for students and employees. PED Secretary Ryan Stewart told the Journal recently that a hybrid model – a mix of in-person and online classes – is still the expectation as of now, though the state still has to review plans and has said it would work with schools.
PED’s framework left a lot of the logistics up to individual charter schools and districts.
The APS plan for reentering schools includes:
• Masks will be made available for staff and students, if needed. Masks must be worn on the playground and common areas.
• High-touch surfaces will be cleaned regularly and schools will be cleaned daily.
• Bus drivers will sweep and sanitize the bus in high-touch areas after each trip, in addition to evening cleaning.
• Riders and drivers will be required to wear masks, and siblings will be seated together.
• Children will be discouraged from sharing toys, books and other supplies.
• Water fountains will be off limits.
If a student has any COVID-19 symptoms, they will be placed in an isolated area until they can be picked up, according to the plan. Staff and visitors with symptoms or known exposure to COVID-19 will not be allowed on campus.
If a student or teacher tests positive, Elder said the school will be shut down and disinfected, and students will learn remotely during that time.
The district will post its reentry plan on its website at APS.edu.
Many teachers publicly opposed in-person schooling at this time, saying lives could be on the line. The public forum speakers aligned with feedback from the Albuquerque Teachers Federation, which is urging the district to push back in-person classes for students until at least after Labor Day.
“I urge you to enact 100% online learning and not consider any form of in-person school until Bernalillo County is free of new cases for at least two full weeks,” said Kristine Mayle, a teacher at Garfield Middle School.
Staff are scheduled to go back to work on Aug. 5 and will undergo training on teaching in the new environment.
School districts across New Mexico are grappling with how to reopen schools this fall.
Rio Rancho Public Schools plans to offer two options. The first is a hybrid option where students in grades K-3 will attend school full days on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday; and students in grades 4-12 will attend school two days a week and learn from home three days a week. Students will also be allowed to do 100% virtual learning, but those who choose that option will have to stick with it for the first semester.
The Santa Fe school board, meanwhile, will consider a proposal on Thursday to start the school year remotely. The plan calls for a gradual transition to a hybrid model based on coronavirus infection transmission rates. The school board will consider three options for reopening – remote, full reentry or hybrid.
The Santa Fe school district and teachers union representing most public school educators are proposing remote learning for the first nine weeks, with plans to bring students into a pilot hybrid model if the transmission rate falls below 1.05.
T.S. Last and the Rio Rancho Observer contributed to this report.