No surprise, 12,000-plus NM students are AWOL - Albuquerque Journal

No surprise, 12,000-plus NM students are AWOL

New Mexico students have gone missing.

They’ve disappeared, and the state’s Public Education Department has failed once again. New Mexico state officials have now recruited state agencies and school leaders in a statewide effort to find more than 12,000 missing students, a 4.2% decline from spring enrollment figures.

Remote no-shows.

It’s not surprising.

When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham decided to shut down in-person learning at schools and resort to online schooling due to the pandemic, the move reeked of disaster. It happened: Many students don’t have access to computers or the internet, students are falling behind, parental frustration is growing, and students are suffering mentally, dealing with depression and thoughts of suicide from self-isolation and lack of social engagement.

Now the worst education system in the nation faces a new crisis with students gone AWOL. It’s strange that only now the state has discovered these thousands of students have not attended class. PED Secretary Ryan Stewart says these numbers “cause genuine, immediate concern.” There’s an understatement.

It’s flabbergasting that school officials, who have been aware of this pathetic conundrum for months, are now struggling to understand why 12,000-plus students are not in school or where they are. Yet no red flags were raised.

The governor’s random public health order decisions and the call to have schools completely online are to blame.

As desperate parents try to make ends meet, they juggle jobs and worry about mere survival, thanks to the lockdowns set down by the governor. Parents have been unable to ensure that kids are behind their computers, if they even have them, to attend school. With many parents out of the home, there’s no wonder students are playing hooky or evading any responsibility.

What’s even more shocking is the lack of state responsibility here. The state has failed to make the grade for supervision and oversight to make sure students go to class.

So what’s the state’s solution after this embarrassing discovery?

It wants to get these missing students and families to go to a web page and “answer a few questions to let us know what their current education plan is” and to let them know that “if they’re interested in returning to school, we’ll put them with an academic coach to get them back on track.”

I wonder what the odds are that these students will rush to their computers, if they even have one, to return to school after a three-month absence.

It’s shameful and sad that it’s come to this. I don’t understand why schools cannot reopen, begin in-person learning while practicing social distancing and safety measures. In Europe, schools are a priority, and countries are making sacrifices to guarantee children go to school.

Education there is valued.

Obviously, this is not a priority for the Lujan Grisham administration.

The governor and PED’s incompetence in allowing thousands of students to skip school is unconscionable and immoral. Being 50th in education is already inexcusable, but the pandemic should be no excuse for losing these students in the system.

It’s the governor’s administration that needs some schooling.


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