Lawmakers push to give school boards opening authority - Albuquerque Journal

Lawmakers push to give school boards opening authority

Rio Rancho Elementary “hybrid learners” line up after climbing out of their school bus to have their temperatures checked as school officials remind them of social distancing practices. (Garry Herron/Rio Rancho Observer)

Republican and Democratic lawmakers are pursuing legislation that would give local school boards more of a say on opening to in-person learning, a move aimed at bringing more students back into classrooms.

The bill would be a shift from the approach to in-person learning taken during the COVID-19 pandemic by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration.

The proposal comes as a new study suggests there is significant public support for allowing school boards to make the call. The survey – commissioned by the Adelante Now Foundation and conducted by Research & Polling Inc. – found that 52% of the 500-person sample thought local school boards should be the decision-maker for when to reopen public schools for in-person learning. Thirty percent said state government leaders should decide.

“I think what families and teachers and administrators want people to know is that they know their district better,” Democratic Rep. Candie Sweetser, who is backing the bill, said in a phone interview Friday.

Among the 500 adults surveyed by Research & Polling, 313 were parents, grandparents and guardians.

“Parents are concerned about their kids possibly contracting or spreading the virus, but a larger group is concerned about their kids falling behind academically,” said Brian Sanderoff, president of Albuquerque-based Research & Polling Inc.

Of the parents, grandparents and guardians surveyed, 71% said they were concerned about their student falling behind academically without in-person learning. Similarly, 72% said they were concerned about their student being affected socially or emotionally without in-person learning or extracurricular activities.

“Therefore, I’m not surprised that two-thirds of New Mexico residents prefer for this semester for the schools to reopen for in-person learning,” Sanderoff said.

The research showed 66% of the 500 adults who were surveyed would prefer in-person learning in the new semester – either with a mix of online (39%) or open completely (27%). Twenty-five percent preferred public schools to be closed to in-person schooling.

Schools shut down last March as the first cases of COVID-19 appeared. State officials created plans to allow more in-person learning, but infections spread so fast that most schools were ineligible to open, or chose not to. Nearly a year later, the vast majority of students haven’t set foot in a classroom.

The governor’s reopening plan was developed with input from health officials and a scientific modeling team at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Multiple metrics of COVID-19 cases, positivity rates and testing rates are tracked, and each county is categorized as part of a color-coded system, with red being the most at risk. Sparsely populated Harding County is the only one of 33 to be classified as green.

GOP House Minority Leader Jim Townsend said the plan is to introduce the bill this week.

The measure calls for giving local school boards the authority to determine when and for how many days each week a school can offer in-person learning during a public health emergency, according to a draft copy reviewed by the Associated Press.

The bill also allows teachers and students to opt out of in-person learning, and teach or learn remotely.

Of the 500 people surveyed by Research & Polling, 56% felt the public health order should be amended to allow some in-person learning before the fall and 29% did not.

Some 45% of parents, grandparents and guardians surveyed were concerned about students contracting COVID-19 by returning to in-person learning. And 32% were not concerned.

That research had a maximum margin of error of approximately 4.4%.

Republican Sen. David Gallegos hopes the exceptions protecting teacher and student choice in the bill will help draw more bipartisan support.

“A lot of the time, it’s metro versus rural, and we’re trying to avoid that,” he said.

If passed, the bill would likely be vetoed by Lujan Grisham.

State officials have already carved out some exceptions for in-person learning, allowing K-3 and special education students to attend class in small groups.

Earlier this week, Lujan Grisham and her deputies teased a loosening of the restrictions that could undercut support in the Legislature for a bill that would take away their authority.

“We’re very hopeful that we will be able to expand eligibility for in-person learning services very soon. We know that this is a critical issue,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart told legislators Thursday.

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Lawmakers push to give school boards opening authority

Insert Question Legislature form in Legis only stories




Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

ABQjournal can get you answers in all pages

 

Questions about the Legislature?
Albuquerque Journal can get you answers
Email addresses are used solely for verification and to speed the verification process for repeat questioners.
1
NM education chief retires as Cabinet turnover continues
ABQnews Seeker
Kurt Steinhaus — New Mexico's third ... Kurt Steinhaus — New Mexico's third public education secretary in four years — announced his retirement Saturday, accelerating an unusual burst of turnover during ...
2
‘Dirty cop’ tests limits of Fifth Amendment privilege
ABQnews Seeker
Glenn Lewellen was “a dirty cop.” ... Glenn Lewellen was “a dirty cop.” That’s a direct quote from an unusually blunt federal court opinion.
3
Roundhouse roundup: Guns, food and liquor measures all on ...
ABQnews Seeker
Gun safety, criminal justice issues, a ... Gun safety, criminal justice issues, a minimum wage battle and a proposed booze ban for state senators were all up for discussion this week.
4
Eastbound I-40 shut down at Carlisle due to crash
ABQnews Seeker
All lanes of eastbound Interstate 40 ... All lanes of eastbound Interstate 40 are closed Saturday afternoon following a crash at Carlisle. Gilbert Gallegos, an Albuquerque police spokesman, said one person ...
5
Fire crews to start pile burns on the east ...
ABQnews Seeker
The forest service will be conducting ... The forest service will be conducting prescribed pile burns over the next week in the area around Sulphur Canyon in the Sandia Mountains. Bernalillo ...
6
There’s almost unlimited clean, geothermal energy under our feet. ...
ABQnews Seeker
Modern drilling capabilities developed by the ... Modern drilling capabilities developed by the oil and gas industry are opening the gateway to deep underground geothermal energy.
7
In the near future, clean geothermal energy could heat ...
ABQnews Seeker
Geothermal makeovers could be gaining ground ... Geothermal makeovers could be gaining ground in New Mexico, thanks to technological advancements.
8
Sandia National Laboratories' drilling research, long used by oil ...
ABQnews Seeker
Sandia wants to make those efforts ... Sandia wants to make those efforts more efficient and less expensive
9
Wrong-way driver killed in crash on West Side
ABQnews Seeker
A wrong-way driver was killed after ... A wrong-way driver was killed after crashing his car into a truck Saturday morning on the West Side. Albuquerque police spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said ...