Data: Only 50.5% of ABQ students returned to campus - Albuquerque Journal

Data: Only 50.5% of ABQ students returned to campus

Vivian Frey works with her fourth graders at El Dorado Community School. The percentage of families who opted into face-to-face instruction has varied across the state’s largest school districts like Santa Fe Public Schools. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

The state Public Education Department made it clear that public schools in New Mexico should open for full-time, in-person learning by April 5.

With that deadline come and gone, the percentage of families who opted into the face-to-face instruction as the 2020-21 school year neared its end has varied across the state’s largest school districts.

In Albuquerque Public Schools, 35,403 students out of 70,083, or 50.5%, were learning on campus, according to data from April. This means over 34,000 students are still learning at home, which has largely been the way students have been getting an education this year.

In-person participation also differed school by school, with some APS schools having nearly all students returning to class and others with closer to 15% to 20% back.

Meanwhile, in Rio Rancho Public Schools, 59.7% of 16,732 students were learning in person and the rest were virtual, according to counts from late April. A school-level breakdown reveals that in-person participation ranged from 44% at V. Sue Cleveland High School to roughly 82% at Shining Stars Preschool.

That’s because state officials left going back to campus as a family decision and required districts to offer remote options.

District data shows that not all parents are rushing back to the classroom, which isn’t a trend peculiar to New Mexico.

Parents wanted choice

A recent national poll that surveyed 1,151 parents with public K-12 students found the majority prefer having a choice between instructional modes.

The research released by the National Parents Union showed 58% of parents wanted public schools to offer both in-person and remote learning options next school year, and to allow parents to decide.

Parents wanted choice

For what’s left of this academic year, a higher percentage – 62% – wanted to be allowed to pick between in-person and remote.

The National Parents Union is a collective of parent-led advocacy organizations with network members in New Mexico. Keri Rodrigues, president of the national organization, told the Journal in a phone interview that giving parents autonomy to pick the best education model for their kids will likely be hard to shift away from.

“Parents have been to the promised … choice and that’s not toothpaste that is easily put back in the tube,” she said.

Rodrigues said it comes down to trust.

“We have seen schools frankly fumble through this moment … so now we are looking at everything with a very critical eye and we want to keep our options open,” she said.

Remote enjoyable for some

Rodrigues added that parents have told her that remote education should remain on the table moving forward.

“Some of us have actually enjoyed the remote-education experience; we’ve added additional components to our kids’ educational experience. And, frankly, others are very concerned about our public education system’s ability to keep our kids safe,” she said.

Not only does educational preference differ family to family, but also it can differ child by child. Rodrigues said she has five boys and found that two of them needed in-person instruction, while the other three could learn virtually.

Further south in New Mexico, Las Cruces Public Schools had the highest percentage of in-person learners among the larger districts in the state. District officials reported that 14,884 children, or 63%, are coming on to campus and 8,594 kids, or almost 37% of students, are learning from a distance.

That’s compared to about 4,700 out of 12,300 students, roughly 38%, who selected in-person in Gadsden Independent School District, according to spokesman Luis Villalobos. A total of 47% of Santa Fe Public Schools’ 11,562 students were learning face to face.

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