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Letter to the editor: Social distance to reopen schools


Everyone in our community is holding their breath and waiting for answers about going back to school under the cloud of COVID-19.

Schools are community hubs that serve as far more than just places where kids learn to read and write. Leaders in our community have taken on the difficult task of planning for reopening, and I have to say that they’re doing a remarkable job, and I’m confident that everything will be OK.

As the president of Rio Rancho School Employees Union, I have had the privilege of addressing the needs of concerned educators. Everyone — and I mean everyone — in our schools is concerned.

They are concerned for their own health and the health of their students. They are concerned about the health of their families, because what if they unknowingly carry the virus home to their new baby or their elderly parent?

They are concerned about the possibility of children becoming gravely ill (or even dying) from this virus. These, and many others, are valid concerns from people who are central to the success of our community.

I have also had the privilege of being involved with decisions about how we will reopen schools.

However, the virus and our individual response ultimately direct our reopening timeline. Every leader from the governor to Rio Rancho Public Schools leadership have been deeply invested in maintaining the safety of staff and students.

Additionally, the teachers’ unions — NEA and AFT — have been integral voices in these decisions for how we will reopen.

How we reopen the schools may look different for each community and municipality. Plans are being released from districts across the state, and I’m confident that we will see a continuous collaborative effort between education professionals, parents/guardians, public servants and the community.

It is, however, critical that we listen to our educators. From teachers to bus drivers and every other valued educator who helps take care of our children needs to be heard.

Their safety needs to be a top concern. It will take each and every one of us doing everything we can to support all of our students and educators.

Ultimately, how and when we reopen schools will depend on each of us doing everything we can to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Please, wear your mask. Please, socially distance yourself. Please, take this seriously.

Our educators are depending on you. But, more importantly, our kids are depending on you.

Rio Rancho Schools Employee Union

Billie Helean, President

Gino Satriana, Executive VP

Missy Fernandez, Treasurer

Paul Reichbach, VP Licensed

Joan Oliveri, VP Retired

Bea Cruz, VP EAs

Melissa Lawrence, VP Ancillary