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Governor: ‘APS should go back to school’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said she is “very disappointed” that Albuquerque Public Schools will remain primarily online for the rest of the school year, touting moves by the state to make schools safer.

“I think New Mexico leads the nation in these efforts,” she said, highlighting money spent on ventilation improvements for the classroom, among other efforts.

Lujan Grisham said during a news briefing with the media on the Legislative Session that a hybrid model, which mixes on-campus and remote learning, with mandatory precautions such as mask wearing and social distancing make it possible for in-person schooling to happen safely during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ben Ippel, a fourth grade teacher at Governor Bent Elementary School, teaches students remotely in his empty classroom. APS will keep kids learning online for the most part until the end of the school year. (Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)

“Kiddos want to go back to school. Parents want to go back to school and this is the safe model,” she said.

On a nearly unanimous vote, the APS Board of Education decided on Wednesday to keep students learning online but permitted in-person small groups of students who need it most.

The state late last month announced that all schools across New Mexico would be eligible to start teaching in a hybrid format starting Feb. 8. Hybrid was one of three in-person learning options on the table, none of which were mandatory.

APS Board President David Peercy declined to comment on the governor’s statements, except to note that school boards and charter leaders were given the autonomy to make the reopening call.

The Governor’s Office wrote in an email to the Journal that said in part “districts and local leadership can and should debate the when and where, but there should be no debate about the fundamental fact of whether it can be done safely in the first place.”

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham masks up. Today, she expressed her disappointment about the state’s largest school district remaining largely virtual.
(Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

APS board members indicated they were open to revisiting their decision if teachers and other school staff get wider access to COVID-19 vaccines. The board is expected to vote on a resolution urging the governor and state Department of Health to further prioritize school employees for the vaccine.

But Lujan Grisham stressed that older educators and those who have underlying conditions have been near the front of the line since early on in the vaccine rollout.

She also said the state followed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines and did everything teachers unions asked for in order to get teachers back into classrooms, pointing out that child care workers, nurses and other classes of employees have already been working on site for months.

Lujan Grisham isn’t the only one speaking out against the board’s decision. Two Republican lawmakers fired off scathing statements this week, too.

“I think APS should go back to school,” the governor said.

Journal Capitol Bureau Chief Dan Boyd contributed to this report.


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