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RISD gets state OK for hybrid learning

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The Roswell Independent School District received approval from the Public Education Department to move to the hybrid model of learning next week, Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said at Tuesday night’s meeting of the RISD school board.

RISD Superintendent Mike Gottlieb (Submitted Photo)

One building did not pass the required inspections, but Gottlieb said a second inspection would be conducted Thursday and he fully expected it would pass.

Elementary schools are scheduled to begin hybrid learning Tuesday — there are no classes Monday due to President’s Day — with A groups in school and B groups in remote learning. Wednesday will be remote learning for all. On Thursday and Friday, the elementary B groups will be in their classrooms while A groups are in remote learning.

Middle schools and high schools will begin the hybrid model on Feb. 22, following the same A-B model.

Parents of elementary students should receive information on building-specific schedules and procedures from their principals by the end of the week, Gottlieb said.

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How the schools are disseminating information varies. Some are conducting virtual meetings for parents, others are using robocalls or texts, posting on their web pages or having teachers send out the information.

Portable classrooms at Mesa Middle School, 1601 E. Bland St., did not pass the required inspection by a fire marshal required by the PED to move to hybrid learning. The school building itself did pass inspection, however, Gottlieb said.

“They just weren’t ready for all that. It was a faster return than we had expected,” Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb said Principal Marcos Franco has since gotten the portable classrooms prepared and the school will be ready to open.

“Marcos has done a good job. Mesa did an outstanding job on their processes and learning models,” he said.

Each school has had to write its own plan for reentry, detailing its COVID-safe procedures such as drop-off and pick-up, lunch and breakfast, bathroom breaks, recess, emergencies and more, Gottlieb said.

One common factor throughout the district, Gottlieb said, is moving to the hybrid model will not be perfect.

“There has not been a playbook written. We have relied on our staff, the administration, teachers and parents to give us feedback and input as we work through this process,” he said.

“The first day is probably going to be a little traumatic, but I know they’ve worked real hard on their plans,” Gottlieb said, adding he has read each school’s plans and even sent some back for revisions or for further information.

Whether or not students can or will need to bring their district-provided Chromebooks to classes will be decided at each building, Gottlieb said. He said his preference was the devices stay at home.

“My biggest concern with bringing the computers back and forth from school was I don’t want the computers to do the teaching,” he said.

But, he continued, teachers have told him the devices are necessary for testing and small-group interaction, among other reasons.

“The computer is the new textbook,” Gottlieb said. “It’s not like the days when I used to teach and we had workbooks.”

For classes that do not have digital textbooks, they often have worksheets or activities that are completed online, he said.

Gottlieb said he has a goal before he leaves the superintendent’s office in June to make sure the district’s high schools have a 1-to-1 ratio of devices to students.

The superintendent also updated the board about district vaccinations for COVID-19. More than 600 staff members have received the vaccine. An event Wednesday evening was scheduled to vaccinate another 210 and a Monday event will vaccinate another 40, Gottlieb said.

“That completes the list of everybody who volunteered” for the vaccine, he said.

That list does not include administrators unless they had health concerns, staff at the district office, substitute teachers and those who volunteered but have had COVID-19 in the last 90 days, Gottlieb said.

Even with the vaccinations, staff and families need to take precautions to help make the hybrid model work, Gottlieb said, repeatedly emphasizing the steps of hand-washing, mask wearing and social distancing.

If a school has four Rapid Responses to positive COVID-19 tests from the New Mexico Environment Department in a 14-day period, the school will have to close, Gottlieb said. That is a requirement from the PED and New Mexico Department of Health.

“That’s including all activities,” he said, including sports.

Even older cases are subject to quarantine, as Gottlieb said he had been told by the PED on Tuesday that a group within the district would have to quarantine for 14 days due to a positive case in December.

“We didn’t know about it and now they’re going to hold it against us,” he said.

Somehow, he said, the test result was not communicated to the district at the time, but the state’s contact tracing efforts tied it to the district.

Gottlieb said he argued against the quarantine, but the PED ordered it.

“It broke my heart because I don’t agree with it, but if a rule is a rule, that’s what I’m going to do. I argued my point and I lost the point,” he said.

“Asking people to quarantine for 14 days in February for something that happened in December, it doesn’t make sense,” Board President Hope Morales said. She asked Gottlieb to get more clarification in writing about the decision from PED.

Gottlieb did not provide details during the meeting about the quarantine, but said he would share more with Morales later.

“It gives you the idea of how important it is for our community, our staff, our kids to wash hands, wear a mask, social distance. If we really want to make going back to school work, it’s going to take those three things,” he said.

In new business, the board unanimously approved several items:

• A $750 donation from Loved Communities to Nancy Lopez Elementary School for classroom supplies in hybrid learning.

• An addition to the increment pay schedule of $900 for certified teachers who give up their lunch period to monitor recess during the rest of the school year. The increment was agreed upon last week by RISD and the Roswell Education Association.

• An adjustment to the transportation contracts to accommodate purchases for new buses — one for Hamill Transportation and five for Pollard Bus Co. The bus purchases were approved by PED. The adjustments add $22,632 to the Hamill contract and $111,738 to the Pollard contract.

At the end of the meeting, the board went into executive session to review candidates for the superintendent position.

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

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