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Superintendent: Here’s how to go back to school

It is with a happy heart that I announce the return to school on April 6 for every family that wishes for their child to return.

The journey to this day has been bumpy, with U-turns and detours, but we’ve arrived. As the science and the understanding of COVID-19 have evolved, so have the guidance and directives that we’ve received on everything from sanitization protocols to surveillance testing.

It seems we are ending this school year with the same philosophy in which we started this journey almost a year ago: to remain flexible, be prepared to pivot, have contingency plans, take feedback, continuously work on improvement, and prioritize safety for students and staff in our decision-making.

As this won’t be business as usual, we’ve prepared a document, called the Family Checklist: Planning for In-Person Learning, which is available on our website in English and Spanish. Here are a few things to consider:

Most teachers will be coming back, but we still have a cadre of teachers who won’t have had their second vaccine yet. By April 19, the majority of our teachers who are returning will be back. Some teachers will continue teaching remotely because of medical accommodations. Until April 19, some students will be supervised by substitutes and district-level personnel who will be in the schools providing support and supervision while their teacher teaches remotely.

All students, regardless of income, will receive FREE breakfast and lunch. If a child is in remote learning, curbside service will be available. The link for specific information is Meals During COVID-19.

It is critically important for parents to complete a daily check-in with their child, ensuring they don’t have a temperature of 100 degrees or higher, are not exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 and have not been exposed to someone who has tested positive.

Students will be in school five days a week and transportation services will be provided. Parents may check their child’s eligibility for to-and-from school transportation by going to our Transportation Homepage.

Dress in layers and prepare for cooler temperatures in the classrooms because of increased outdoor air exchange; classrooms might be nippy in the mornings.

Bring your devices and laptops to school every day and take them home at night; don’t forget your chargers.

Bring a filled water bottle in the morning. Students will be able to refill them at water filling stations, but water fountains are disabled.

Masks remain critically important. A shield is OK if worn with a mask. No gators will be allowed. Masks must be worn at all times, except when eating or drinking.

Remind students that frequent handwashing is critical; they will be allowed to bring small personal hand sanitizers, but outside cleaning products are prohibited.

Mental health and social well-being remain critically important. Talk to your child about how school will look different. For example, teachers will be keeping their distance. Continually check in with your children about how they are feeling and remind them to talk to their teacher or school counselor if they are feeling worried, confused or anxious. And, parents, please feel free to reach out to your principal, teacher or counselor if you have concerns.

I’m convinced that SFPS has gone above and beyond to ensure that the district’s schools are ready and safe to welcome back our students. Let’s finish this year as a milestone to fulfilling our collective wish to get our kids back to school and closer to a sense of normalcy.

To our students, welcome back! We’ve missed you.

Veronica García is superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools.

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