Two sinkholes have sunk a Los Ranchos charter school’s hopes for a normal end to the school year.
Students at North Valley Academy will finish out the year from behind computer screens, the school announced Friday, weeks after they were initially sent home out of concern for their safety.
School leadership did not respond to multiple phone and email requests for comment.
“I understand that this is a hardship for many of you, and please understand we are doing everything we can to reopen the campus as soon as possible,” Head Administrator Julie Geldmacher said in a letter to families provided to the Journal.
Two “deep” sinkholes were discovered in a “high traffic” area of the school, near Fourth and Sarah NW, and civil engineers are working on an underground radar survey to look for other potential sinkholes. Once that’s done, the school will begin excavating and repairing.
The pre-K through eighth grade school, which according to state education department data from earlier this school year had about 380 students, initially sent them home in February. That was only meant to last for a few days, but according to messages to families, students’ return date kept getting pushed out.
Finally, on Friday, the school announced its decision to keep up remote learning for the rest of the school year.
Parents have complained about being kept in the dark about the situation, and about the effect learning from home has had on their children. Dom Riccobene, a North Valley Academy parent, said that learning remotely has been “miserable” for his son, who’s in the second grade.
“He’s got to sit still all day and look at his friends … and try to focus and pay attention,” Riccobene said. “It’s just impossible, and he’s getting really frustrated with it.”
“His anxiety is up, I can tell he’s not learning … very well,” he added. “It’s just a mess.”
Sounding disheartened, Riccobene said the decision to continue remote learning for the rest of the year made things all the more difficult, and added that he’s considered moving his son to a different school but application deadlines have already closed.
In the letter, Geldmacher said it took time to make sure she had a “full picture of the extent of the problem,” before making an official announcement on the school’s plans, but that she understood if communication with parents felt vague.
In the meantime, Geldmacher wrote, the school will coordinate field trips and other activities to keep students connected and engaged. She added that she consulted with Los Ranchos Mayor Donald Lopez in determining that finishing out the year remotely was the “best option.”
“While this certainly is not the outcome any of us wanted, we simply cannot risk the safety of our community,” Geldmacher said.