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200 protest outside APS headquarters

Laura Lyle, left, and her 14 year-old daughter, Ally Lyle, hold signs during a protest at Albuquerque Public Schools headquarters Sunday. Ally Lyle, a La Cueva freshman who plays soccer and basketball, said she thinks it’s unfair that students in other states get to play sports. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Connor Baca wants to play football his senior year.

But for now, he and several others feel they have been sidelined by the Albuquerque Public Schools board’s decision last week keeping most students learning virtually, which effectively keeps sports off the table for now.

“After the ruling, we just felt like we were done wrong, and we felt like we had to do something about it,” Baca, an Eldorado senior, said Sunday. “Our first instinct was to get our voices heard, and we thought a protest was the best way to do it.”

Baca and his buddies on the Eldorado football team spread the word about a protest on social media, and it led to about 200 people gathering outside APS headquarters Sunday afternoon.

Many held signs that said “Let them play” and “Kids matter too.” Several students from schools around Albuquerque told the crowd that they wanted to play their bitter crosstown rivals one last time.

On Wednesday, the school board decided to allow some small groups back onto campus for in-person learning but said that could change if COVID-19 cases continue to decline and more people are vaccinated. The board is meeting Monday and will consider approval of a letter to the state requesting that the Public Education Department to allow athletics even if the district remains in a remote-learning model. Superintendent Scott Elder has said the district has not given up hope of bringing student athletics back this semester.

In a statement issued Sunday, APS apologized for the losses the pandemic has caused.

“We continue our relentless efforts to adapt to the daily challenges and will not give up,” the statement said. “Until then, please know we are also eager to resume campus life. We want to see students in classrooms, on sports fields, and with their friends. We are not giving up.”

Laura Lyle, a teacher at Desert Ridge Middle School and the mother of two student-athletes at La Cueva High School, said she is frustrated because other states have allowed scholastic activities but New Mexico has not.

“I just think, especially being a teacher, kids need to have their youth, both in and outside of the classroom,” she said. “Whether it be sports, whether it be drama, whether it be band, the robotics club – everybody should get to compete. We’re out here supporting sports, but I think we’re really out here supporting competition.”

Ally Lyle, Laura Lyle’s daughter and a La Cueva freshman who plays basketball and soccer, said she is willing to take precautionary measures, such as wearing a mask, if it means she gets to compete.

“I am so tired of being stuck at home all the time,” Ally Lyle said. “Part of my childhood is being taken away from me because I can’t go to school, and I’m missing out on my whole freshman year because the APS board has decided not to let us go back.”

Johnny Herrera, a senior at Volcano Vista who plays football and baseball, said he feels like APS isn’t listening to students’ concerns.

“We’ve been looking forward to this moment our whole life, to be a senior and compete against our rivals and have a good time and make memories,” Herrera said. “It’s frustrating that APS isn’t letting us do that.”

With just over two months left in the school year, time is running out to hold games and other competitions. Still, several students are hoping to play at least one or two games before they leave high school.

“We’re still holding on to that little bit of hope,” said Baca, the Eldorado senior. “Hopefully today we’ve showed as a city that we felt neglected and ignored, and hopefully something can change and we can be able to compete.”