Home News COVID-19 Situation Impact of school closures could be felt for years, lawmakers told

Impact of school closures could be felt for years, lawmakers told


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Making up for lost learning time in New Mexico’s public schools could mean extended academic calendars for years to come, according to a report made to the New Mexico Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday.

Legislators heard from officials with the Public Education Department, including Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart and Deputy Secretary Gwen Pera Warniment, on the impact and cost of school closures, the status of reopening schools and the implications of continuing remote learning.

Ryan Tolman, statistician supervisor with the Public Education Department and a program evaluator for the LFC, spoke about the amount of lost learning time since the beginning of the pandemic and strategies to make up for it.

Tolman said that, based on a Stanford University study, a student who was a kindergartner in New Mexico in spring 2020 entered first grade approximately 150 days behind where they should be.

“This lost time could potentially affect that student’s eventual SAT scores and even their success in graduating high school or attending college,” Tolman said.

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Additionally, in districts that continue remote learning through January, students could face an additional three to 14 months of learning loss, he said.

Students from low-income families and minorities would likely suffer the greatest learning loss, Tolman said.

Adding 25 extra days to the school year for first-grade students throughout their elementary school years and 10 days to their middle and high school years would allow them to catch up by the time they graduate high school, Tolman said.

The state could make that happen by universally extending school calendars in fiscal year 2022, which would cost about $138 million, Tolman said.

That funding could come from K-5 Plus, a program that provides funds for districts to extend the school year by 25 instructional days at the beginning of the year for elementary grades.

The program is underutilized, Tolman said, with only 13 of the state’s 89 districts using the funding this year.

Tutoring and acceleration academies, which offer small-group learning on Saturdays and during school breaks, can also be of benefit, Tolman 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/.