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RISD board to discuss hybrid learning plans

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What action to take when the state allows Chaves County schools to move to a hybrid learning mode will be a topic for discussion when the Roswell Independent School District Board of Education meets for an upcoming workshop.

The workshop will be Sept. 22. An agenda has not yet been posted.

Board members and Superintendent Mike Gottlieb had a brief discussion on that topic at Tuesday’s regular meeting. Gottlieb said because of Chaves County’s COVID-19 statistics, hybrid learning for RISD is likely not in the near future.

“It’s going to be a while unless there’s some miracle that happens,” Gottlieb said.

RISD has already met two of the criteria for reopening under an Aug. 27 revision to the state health order. The district’s re-entry and safety plans have been approved by the Public Education Department.

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However, the health order also stipulates a county must be rated “green,” meaning it has fewer than an average of eight daily cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of under 5%.

The state is using a two-week average to determine the average daily cases. Under the latest assessment, taken from Aug. 19 to Sept. 1, Chaves County has 20.2 cases per 100,000 people. The positivity rate of Chaves County’s COVID-19 testing is 7.5%.

When RISD schools are allowed to reopen, elementary schools will be first. They will operate under a hybrid model, with students divided into two groups. Group A will attend classes in their schools on Mondays and Tuesdays and Group B on Thursdays and Fridays. On the days they are not in the classroom, the students will continue with remote learning. On Wednesdays, the schools will undergo sanitation and deep cleaning.

Middle schools and high schools will be allowed to reopen at later dates if COVID numbers remain at the required levels.

“We do need to have a serious discussion. If and when we get to go back to school with our A-B model, starting off with our elementary, what does the board want to do?” Gottlieb said.

“The board actually has to direct me to say we are going back, and if we are going back, when are we going back,” he said.

Gottlieb and board members said it is important to weigh the needs of students and their families against the COVID-19 situation.

Parents, especially single parents, are finding difficulties in supervising their children’s remote learning or finding someone to do so while working, Gottlieb said.

“Sometimes they have two and three jobs. We have grandparents, we have aunts and uncles, we have friends” taking care of children, he said.

“Literally, I have letters from people saying there’s nobody taking care of the kids,” he said.

The district has worked with those parents to help them find resources, he said.

“They’re your kids, board. We need to feed them, we need to educate them, we need to socially, emotionally bring them up to a good spot and hopefully make them great citizens,” he said.

Board member Mona Kirk said she has seen the effects of remote learning in her own son, who is in high school. Without the structure and routine, he has left tasks undone, she said. A return this week to conditioning for athletes showed his physical endurance is lower, she said.

“I know how difficult it is on my child. I’m worried and I lose sleep over it,” she said.

Board President Hope Morales also suggested the board discuss at its workshop the possibility of allowing younger students to return to classes in small groups.

Under the health order, schools are allowed to serve small groups of students in kindergarten through third grade in the classroom. The groups can be no more than five students per teacher and students most in need of learning support will receive priority.

“I know that’s something that’s allowed right now, and if (remote learning) goes longer term, do we want to look into the district possibly doing that?” Morales asked.

Board member Milburn Dolan agreed that would be important to discuss.

“I’ve got two kindergarteners, grandkids, and they need that social interaction. It’s just part of those building skills that if they don’t get built early, you can’t go back and ingrain them,” he said.

Gottlieb said there are pros and cons to that discussion, which he will bring to the workshop. Providing enough staff is one issue he said the district would have to contend with.

Board member James Edwards said the board will also have to consider the staff’s needs in moving back to in-person learning.

“There’s also going to be that transition period the staff is going to have to make,” he said.

That transition won’t be as simple as flipping a switch, he said.

“We need a plan. It’s gotta be buy-in on every side,” he said.

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

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