Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
Santa Fe Public Schools students will return to class next month, but in a very different environment than they’re probably used to.
Members of the SFPS school board approved a reentry plan for the district Thursday night that will move the first nine weeks of the school year online as school officials seek to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among staff and student populations.
District officials reached an agreement Wednesday with the National Education Association-Santa Fe, the union representing faculty and staff. Teachers had long voiced their concerns about returning to the classroom in person, as evidenced by a district survey to which 51% of teachers responded that they preferred remote learning.
Superintendent Veronica García said the reentry plan came with sacrifices, but was ultimately the best outcome given the unprecedented situation the COVID-19 pandemic has presented.
“It was not an easy effort,” she said. “A lot of give and take, a lot of compromise, a lot of sweat and tears, because we all believe that the best place for our students is in the classroom.”
Board members also agreed that, while the decision was tough, it was completely necessary.
“All of our feelings right now are valid and also they should not be driving our decision-making process,” board member Sarah Boses said.
In the same survey, the majority of students who responded said they preferred in-person classes, while parents were split between remote learning and a hybrid model that mixes in-person and online learning.
Many teachers, parents and members of the public wrote to the board expressing concerns about the dangers that even a hybrid school model could present.
The board also introduced a new policy that would allow faculty and staff over the age of 65, those with conditions that make them susceptible to COVID-19 and those with family members who have such conditions to work from home even if the district moves to a hybrid model.
According to the district’s reentry plan, a pilot hybrid model will be implemented once the infection rate drops below 1.05, at which point hybrid classes will begin with gradually increasing student numbers.
García said the plan is always subject to change, but now the district has a plan for the initial stages, at least.
“I don’t think anybody can predict how this will progress, but at least we have somewhat of a road map,” she said.
The vote came as school districts across the state submit reentry plans to the state Public Education Department. West Las Vegas and Los Alamos school districts recently announced they would be fully online for the first part of the school year.
Albuquerque Public Schools announced Wednesday that in-person classes could resume as early as Sept. 8, but that classes will be remote for the initial weeks.