Home News COVID-19 Situation New Mexico extends classroom shutdown due to coronavirus

New Mexico extends classroom shutdown due to coronavirus

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Public school students in New Mexico will not return to classrooms or athletic fields during the current academic year due to the coronavirus, the state’s top education official announced Friday.

Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart called the decision to extend a classroom shutdown painful. He explained that students are likely to be graded for remote coursework on a pass-fail basis. High school seniors will be able to graduate through a “demonstration of competency” that may includes a series of assignments, and tests including a college entrance exam — New Mexico’s student assessment tool for high school students.

He stressed that school health centers and counseling services will continue to be available with safety precautions, as the state distributes lunches and breakfasts to more than 100,000 children.

“This is not something that we would wish on anybody,” Stewart said. “We are going to stand by our kids even when we are at a social distance.”

He said that rites of spring such as proms and graduation ceremonies should take place, even if they are delayed by several months. Athletics won’t resume before fall.

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Education officials said the state is supporting a “continuous learning” program with between one hour of instructional time a day for first graders and up to three hours in grades 6-12.

The transition to remote teaching presents daunting challenges in a state that lags behind much of the nation in terms of access to computers and functional internet connections.

The state already has received a waiver from the federal government to suspend student academic assessments. Advanced placement tests will be shortened to include coursework performed through March.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.