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Parents, students protest school closure

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A group of parents and students stand at the corner of North Kentucky Avenue and West Fourth Street outside the Roswell Independent School District offices Wednesday morning to protest the continued closure of schools. Emily Grant, an organizer of the group, said they hoped the protest would send a message to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham. (Juno Ogle Photo)

With signs sporting slogans such as “MLG Let us go to school” and “Down with Zoom up with school” and chanting “Let us go back to school,” a group of about 25 students and adults gathered Wednesday morning to protest the continued closure of schools in Roswell.

The group marched around the block of the Roswell Independent School District office at 300 N. Kentucky Ave. and stood on the northeast corner cheering at drivers who honked in support. They ended their protest after about half an hour with some chants outside the gated entrance to the district’s office.

Emily Grant, an organizer of the protest, said the goal was to send a message to Santa Fe rather than to RISD officials.

“I feel like our voice isn’t being heard in Santa Fe. I just feel like we need more communication. What’s the next step? Can we start doing small teacher-to-student ratios, start that phasing-in process?” she said.

“We’re going to have to live with this virus and we can’t let it stop our kids’ education. New Mexico is 50th in education and this is only going to put us down further,” she said.

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The state has set as its gating criteria for allowing schools in a county to start the hybrid model of learning at a test positivity rate of 5% or less and a daily average of eight or fewer new cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 people over a two-week average. Elementary grades would be allowed in the hybrid model first, with higher grades being phased in.

Chaves County’s two-week average is 22.7 new cases per 100,000 people and a test positivity rate of 6.7% for the two-week period of Sept. 15 to 28. That is down from the previous period, but still in the “red zone” above the state’s criteria.

Grant said that while her two children are struggling with remote learning, she wanted to speak for those who faced even greater difficulty than her family. She and her husband alternate taking their fourth-grader and kindergartner to work with them for their remote learning.

“I’m doing this for the kids who don’t have parents at home supporting them or parents that can’t take them to work and they’re home by themselves,” she said.

“There are so many kids who rely on the school for meals and welfare checks and for someone who cares. I feel like school is the safest place for them,” she said.

Grant and others said they might get together for protests in the future as well.

“We really want the governor to see us down in southeastern New Mexico. We kind of feel like we’re not being treated fairly,” she said.

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

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