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20 schools opt out of prep ‘fall sports’; APS still determining its course of action

Who’s in and who’s out of the state’s high school fall sports season?

The final tally is likely to be fluid for at least a few more days, but at least 20 of the New Mexico Activities Association’s 160 member schools — or 12.5% — will not be participating in fall sports, NMAA executive director Sally Marquez told the Journal on Monday.

The list (which accompanies this story) is mostly smaller schools. From the Albuquerque metro area, the only school on the current list is the Native American Community Academy (NACA).

The two most prominent names on the list are Robertson and West Las Vegas, who belong to separate school districts in Las Vegas.

“I know we want to play. I want to play,” Robertson football coach Leroy Gonzalez said. “It is what it is. We’re ready to rock and roll.”

A handful of schools and districts, both small and large, are still trying to fashion a model that will pave the way for their athletes to compete. That includes the three largest districts in the metro area: Albuquerque Public Schools, Rio Rancho Public Schools and Los Lunas Schools.

Before any school in the state can participate in an NMAA sport, it first must be in a hybrid learning model for 14 calendar days. Schools were eligible to do so as early as Feb. 8.

Additionally, the state’s Public Education Department will have to sign off on a submitted learning model before an individual school, or district, will be eligible to participate in an NMAA sport or activity. Plus, the PED and Department of Health said they will be monitoring schools for two weeks after they begin hybrid, in-person learning. Any significant spike in positive COVID-19 cases will force a school to go back to remote learning, and thus make that school ineligible to participate in athletics.

The state recently approved an NMAA calendar in which football, volleyball and cross country begin practices on Feb. 22, and soccer on March 1. First regular-season competitions in cross country could begin in some places as early as Feb. 27; for volleyball, March 1; for football, March 4, 5 or 6; and for soccer, March 6.

The NMAA has said schools will be able to join a season a little late, if necessary.

Any district that begins classes next Monday won’t be able to play a football game or volleyball match or run a cross country meet until Monday, March 8. To that end, at least a few football season openers possibly will be scheduled on that day.

Los Lunas called a special board meeting for Tuesday. That announcement came less than 48 hours after a Feb. 2 vote by its board to keep Los Lunas and Valencia in a remote learning model until what was the next scheduled board meeting on March 23.

APS’ school board convenes on Wednesday. Superintendent Scott Elder told the Journal last week that he expects a new plan to be presented then.

Rio Rancho doesn’t have a board meeting scheduled this week. Last Monday, Rio Rancho announced that sixth-graders and seniors would return to school starting next Monday. But that won’t make Cleveland High or Rio Rancho High eligible to play sports; that would require all its grades to be involved. A RRPS spokeswoman said Monday the district is drafting a plan that it hopes will be acceptable to the PED. Belen also is working on such a plan.

“… The priority is and will always be safely expanding in-person learning opportunities for New Mexico students,” said Nora Meyers Sackett, spokeswoman for Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. “Any additional activities, like sports, can only be safely conducted if a district has ensured that they can safely get more students back in classrooms.”

The public districts in Las Cruces, Santa Fe, Roswell and Farmington — all cities with multiple high schools — expect to be involved with fall sports.

Opting out

The 20 schools that won’t play a fall sports season, according to the New Mexico Activities Association:

Navajo Prep

Wingate

Robertson

Santa Fe Indian

Santa Fe Prep

West Las Vegas

Laguna-Acoma

Native American Community Academy

Lordsburg

Escalante

Shiprock NW

Alamo Navajo

Corona

Maxwell

Coronado

Jemez Valley

McCurdy

NM School for the Deaf

Santa Fe Waldorf

Walatowa Charter

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