Home News COVID-19 Situation State sets criteria for reopening schools after Labor Day

State sets criteria for reopening schools after Labor Day

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Chaves County has less than two weeks to turn green so its schools can begin to allow students to have in-person learning.

New Mexico Education Secretary Ryan Stewart outlined the criteria for reopening schools after Labor Day Thursday afternoon during a livestreamed press conference with Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.

Those criteria include the state meeting gating criteria for reopening and the county must be in the “green zone” for new daily cases and test positivity rates.

The goal, Stewart said, is to prevent schools from going back and forth from being closed to opening to closing again as has happened in states such as Oklahoma and Georgia.

“One of the things that we’ve put as first and foremost in our guidance is that we have to be able to ensure the health and safety of every student and every single staff member and educator who goes into a school building when we start bringing students back,” Stewart said.

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In order to be in that green zone, a county must have fewer than eight average daily cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate under 5%.

While most of the state is now at that threshold, Chaves County along with Lea, Eddy, Roosevelt, Quay and Hidalgo counties are in the red with more than eight average daily cases per 100,000 and test positivity rate greater than 5%.

Curry and Luna counties are in the yellow zone, with eight or more daily average cases and positivity rates less than 5%.

“We’re still a little out until we get to Sept. 8. We’ll continue to monitor where these counties are, what their rates are looking like and we’ll continue to keep that updated,” Stewart said.

“The more we can wear masks, the more that we practice social distancing and all of the requirements to drive those case numbers down, we can turn more of these red counties to green,” he said.

Schools that are allowed to open after Labor Day will do so in a hybrid model, with students divided in two groups. One group will attend classes on certain days with the other group learning remotely. The groups will switch between in-person and remote learning.

RISD will follow a Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday schedule, with Wednesdays being remote learning for all students while schools are deep-cleaned.

Elementary grades will open first. Lujan Grisham explained that is in part because in-person education is more important for younger children and they are more difficult to engage online.

Starting with just a few grades also minimizes the risk of exposure to the coronavirus compared to letting all students back in school at once, she said.

The state will evaluate how counties are meeting the criteria every two weeks. It is possible schools that open could be moved back to remote learning if cases increase.

“Our focus has been and will continue to be that we effectively deliver high-quality education to our kids during this pandemic with the health-first imperative that in-person learning can only happen if and when every single precaution for students, families and school communities is in place,” Stewart said.

In its daily update of the state’s COVID-19 cases, the New Mexico Department of Health announced 190 new cases Thursday, including 16 in Chaves County.

The total number of cases in New Mexico to date is now at 24,920. That number includes corrections due to a case in Santa Fe County identified as a duplicate and one in Rio Arriba County that was not lab confirmed.

Chaves County has had a total of 663 cases.

Nine deaths related to COVID-19 were also announced Thursday. Two were in Bernalillo County with one each in Cibola, Doña Ana, Lea, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan and Santa Fe counties.

Eight of the deceased had been hospitalized. Three were residents of health care centers. Six had underlying health conditions.

The total number of deaths in the state is 764, including six in Chaves County since March.

The number of cases designated as recovered in the state is 12,446 including 239 in Chaves County.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

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