When Albuquerque Public Schools students come back from winter break and start the second semester, they will continue with remote learning.
The earliest some students could start coming back onto campus is Jan. 19. But Board of Education President David Peercy stressed that current health conditions indicate reentry is unlikely at that time.
In the meantime, students will keep learning remotely until at least mid- to late January. Small groups have been allowed at schools for students with disabilities under the remote model that APS has employed for the entire fall semester.
During a board meeting Wednesday night, officials presented a gradual approach to in-person instruction that starts with bringing some of its youngest students back to campus. But the strategy has some prerequisites.
The plan hinges on Bernalillo County meeting certain health thresholds and school facilities meeting a checklist, among other factors.
And plans could change depending on state guidance and restrictions.
“If the spread slows and we meet state criteria for opening more classrooms, we can start with small groups at elementary schools,” Interim Superintendent Scott Elder wrote in a statement. “Students who are struggling, those who would benefit most from in-person instruction, would be first on the list and we would expand the hybrid model from there.”
Most students in the district haven’t had face-to-face instruction since March.
In August, the board voted to continue remote learning through the first semester of the school year aiming to look at whether a mix of in-person and online could start in the second semester.
“The pandemic has since worsened, forcing the board to push the targeted hybrid plan back at least a few more weeks and to include fewer students,” the district wrote in a news release.
Plus, APS anticipates families and staff could travel over the holidays, which would require a two-week quarantine and impact start dates.
The Board of Education voted 6-1 on Wednesday to approve the new plan, with District 2 board member Peggy Muller-Aragón voting no.
The district’s decision came hours after state health officials reported 2,897 new COVID cases. There were 993 new cases in Bernalillo County.
The most recent APS data shows there were 127 cases among students and staff the week of Nov. 9 – the highest weekly total of the school year and nearly double the previous record.
The move to prolong virtual schooling in the state’s largest school district comes shortly after Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered a two-week lockdown.
While that order didn’t shut down schools already open for a mix of in-person and online learning, the state Public Education Department said no additional schools would be allowed to start the hybrid model for the duration of the public health order.
Last week, Santa Fe Public Schools and Rio Rancho Public Schools announced they would halt in-person learning and move to virtual only.