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Editorial: NM districts right to commit to in-person class now for fall ’21

After over a year of uncertainty, it’s good more N.M. schools are committing to full-time, in-person instruction this fall.

The pandemic forced students, parents and educators to shift to remote learning for much of the 2020-21 school year, and the educational outcomes were dismal. Albuquerque Public Schools estimates about 43% of students failed at least one course in the fall of 2020, more than double the pre-pandemic fall semester of 2019. Analysts estimate New Mexican students face as much as 12 months of learning loss.

That’s why state lawmakers put up $280 million for 25 more days for elementary students and 10 extra days for other grades. Unfortunately, lawmakers didn’t make the extra days mandatory. While districts like Santa Fe Public Schools found a palatable way to add days, districts like APS are leaving tens of millions of dollars on the table – and hundreds of thousands of struggling students out in the cold. We continue to hope they’ll rethink their decision and add the days.

On the brighter side, APS is among school districts committing to widespread in-person learning in the fall. APS also has an online-only school, eCADEMY, for students hesitant to return to classrooms. And in-person students can take free “eCADEMY labs” courses this fall at their schools and, for $25 a class, after-school eCADEMY courses.

While many students struggled, the pandemic revealed some students excelled with remote learning. Expansion of eCADEMY and other remote programs makes perfect sense.

But what is also clear is our teachers should no longer be required to provide both in-person and online instruction. One lesson from the pandemic is that level of multitasking in most cases simply did not work. It was asking teachers to take on an almost impossible task and failed to provide a successful learning experience for many students.

The presidents of the nation’s two major teachers unions are calling for a full return to in-person learning this fall, making it clear it is the best route for teachers and students. The more districts commit now to in-person learning this fall – while providing separate remote-learning programs like eCADEMY – the better administrators, teachers, staff, parents and students can prepare not only for fall 2021, but how best to address learning losses from spring 2020-spring 2021.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.