RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Concerned about a 16,000-student statewide decrease in public school enrollment, Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue Cleveland urged students and parents to be sure seniors are still on track to graduate.
At the school board meeting Monday evening, Cleveland said free help is available through the Graduation Alliance, at 340-3250 or graduationalliance.com.
Through Graduation Alliance’s partnership with the state’s Public Education Department, New Mexico students struggling or disengaged will get an academic coach to work with them on a plan to get back on track.
The bulk of the nearly two-hour meeting was spent looking at results of a recent survey.
Happy Miller, executive director of research, assessment and data analysis, told the board the recent survey sent out to RRPS stakeholders attracted a great response rate: 3,195 students, 4,114 parents/guardians, 832 teachers, 418 staff members, 79 school leaders and 108 employees at the district office.
Miller and a few other administrators went over the results of the short survey, which went out Oct. 26, with many of the responses here:
• 30 percent of the district’s students are worried about getting sick at school, with 42 percent of high school students concerned about that;
• 48 percent of the district’s teachers were worried about getting sick at school, led by 57 percent of the middle school teachers; and 50 percent of school leaders were also worried about becoming sick at school.
In the “pandemic precautions” portion of the survey:
• 62 percent of the support staff, 63 percent of the teachers and 68 percent of school leaders agreed everyone is following the health and safety guidelines, with 44 percent of the teachers trusting that the district will make decisions to keep them and students safe.
In the category labeled “basic needs” for parents:
• 65 percent of parents believe basic needs are met;
• 76 percent have asked for support when needed; and
• 44 percent of parents are satisfied with mental and emotional health support; and
• 67 percent are satisfied with technical and internet access.
For the “basic needs” for teachers:
• 43 percent were satisfied that the district provides adequate mental health support to students and staff; broken down, 40 percent of elementary teachers, 47 percent of middle school teachers and 45 percent of high school teachers were satisfied.
During this time of online learning, which has been throughout the semester for students in middle school and high school, and at least most of the semester for elementary students, access to technology — and comprehending it — is key.
Given that, at least 93 percent of those surveyed have access to the internet, at least 97 percent have access to a computer and 50 percent of the teachers know how to resolve technical problems when they arise.
Of parents, 92.6 percent said they believe their children learn more when assignments are online, and 93.8 percent said lessons should be recorded so their children can watch later.
Virtual learning, Cleveland said later, “doesn’t work for everyone. This is not the preferred method of learning for many students.”
In other survey results, 45 percent of parents believe the district is responsive to feedback. In addition, 48 percent of the district’s students said they were excited to go to class — 73 percent of elementary students responded about their excitement, while all-virtual learners in middle school (33 percent) and high school (32 percent) responded they were “excited” to someday return to the classrooms.
Also, 58 percent of the parents and 72 percent of the teachers believe the district has students’ best interest at heart.
As for the students, 53 percent said “what we do” is interesting, while 55 percent “like what we do.” Eighty-seven percent said they easily participate in online classes and 92 percent said they can easily turn in assignments.
But teachers seemed to lean the other way about virtual education:
• 32 percent said their workload was sustainable (37 percent elementary, 55 percent middle school and 40 percent in high school);
• 29 percent of teachers responding said “all my students” are getting the help they need to complete their school work (27 percent elementary and middle school teachers, 33 percent in high school);
• 61 percent feel comfortable with online teaching, with 10 percent unsure how to effectively adapt their lessons for a virtual environment; and
• 73 percent feel “my school is a good place to teach and learn.”
Cleveland said the results of the survey “will help us be better at what we do,” and added, “Parents are very split on many issues.”
Board president Amanda Galbraith asked if changes will be in store, based on survey results, when the second semester begins.
Chief Academics Officer Carl Leppelman said he felt confident changes can be made soon, because “every principal has their own site data” and teachers are “already doing things (to make changes): email, phone call, counselors reaching out and administrators reaching out.”
In other matters, the board:
• Commended the district’s teachers for their additional hours of work and creativity;
• Recognized Human Resources Specialist Faith Marquart, who tracks COVID-19 positive tests within the district and works long hours, including weekends, treating those cases as individuals, not numbers; and
• Approved two of four HVAC filter vendors, Independent Air Filters out of Texas and Superior Filtration of Albuquerque, to supply the district with the proper MERV-rating filters, as needed, for every school for the next four years – having two vendors allows for flexibility, in the event one doesn’t have the necessary filters when needed.
The board’s next meeting is scheduled for Dec. 14, again in a virtual format, at 5:30 p.m.
No changes made by board to earlier decision
Galbraith said of the more than 175 public comments, about 90 commenters wanted elementary students to remain in hybrid format and open the middle and high schools; 25 wanted all-virtual learning; and 60 were on other topics.
Rio Rancho Elementary students went back online Nov. 19 due to a large number of areas at the school needing to be disinfected after two employees tested positive for COVID, according to an RRPS notice. No other employees or students were in close contact with the patients.