Home News COVID-19 Situation PED clears schools for full in-person learning by April 5

PED clears schools for full in-person learning by April 5

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All New Mexico public school districts are now eligible to return to full-time in-person learning, with an April 5 deadline to do so from the Public Education Department.

“You now can and should move as quickly as possible to get every student who wants in-person learning back into your classrooms for in-person learning every school day,” New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a livestreamed press conference Monday afternoon.

Families who wish to keep their students in remote learning will be allowed to do so, Stewart said.

Schools will also be allowed to resume music, choir and other extracurricular activities with some restrictions, Stewart said.

When schools allow the in-class expansion will be a local decision, Stewart said.

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“Your school or your district administration will determine the specifics of the timeline within that timeframe as it works for your community and taking into account local health conditions,” he said.

When Roswell Independent School District will make the move was not known as of press time. RISD Superintendent Mike Gottlieb was informed of the decision Monday morning, as were other superintendents across the state. He met with RISD administrators and principals Monday after the public announcement.

He said he would present information to the board at its regular meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. Tuesday and will be livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel.

RISD School Board President Hope Morales said staff and families in the district have worked together to keep the hybrid model of learning safe and it will remain important to continue to do so.

“Our staff and families have worked collaboratively on implementing a plan that would support part-time, in-person learning in a safe way,” she said in a statement emailed to The Roswell Daily Record.

“Today’s announcement means that all students can have more access to in-person learning, which can never be replaced, and our educators can focus on creating and delivering quality lesson plans for their students in the same class every day. It is important that we continue our collaboration so that we can keep providing more opportunities to our students,” she said.

Stewart, who was joined in the press conference by Secretary of Health Dr. Tracie Collins and Secretary of Human Services Dr. David Scrase, said among the factors for moving to the green level of full re-entry in its plan was the effectiveness of the vaccines and the increase of supplies.

Earlier Monday, the PED and the Department of Health announced all educators, early childhood professionals and staffs will be eligible to receive the vaccine immediately in keeping with a directive from the White House issued last week.

Prior to Monday’s announcement, the state had not yet opened eligibility specifically to educators, who are in the 1B phase of the state’s vaccination plan. So far in the 1B phase, only those age 75 and older and those 16 and older with at least one health condition that increases their risk are eligible. Health care workers are in the 1A phase.

This week, educators outside the Albuquerque metro area who have already registered with the Department of Health to receive the vaccine will receive priority, Collins said.

Next week, those in the Albuquerque metro area who are registered will be eligible for the vaccine, followed in the third week by all educators who were not already registered to receive the vaccine.

Collins said 53,805 educators were registered so far, with 22,944 partially vaccinated and 11,616 fully vaccinated. That leaves about 20,000 to receive a first dose this month, she said.

“We’re not getting extra doses to respond to this federal directive, but we are certainly trying to maintain the priority of health care personnel, 75-plus and chronic conditions. So if any of those folks have existing appointments, they will keep those appointments. It’s just that moving forward, we’re prioritizing educators,” Collins said.

Stewart also announced Monday the PED has developed music-specific COVID-19 safety practices to allow singing and playing of instruments.

“Singing and playing of wind instruments need to take place outdoors only. The indoor playing and singing will be limited to individual practice sessions in practice rooms,” Stewart said.

Enhanced social distancing of 9 feet will be required while students are singing or playing.

Each student will be required to have a multi-layered cloth cover for some instruments and will be required to clean their instruments to help prevent transmission of the coronavirus.

“Implementing and training these protocols is going to be critically important,” Stewart said.

“We know that this has been a long year,” Stewart said. “It’s been incredibly hard to be away from the in-person learning environment that we’ve all come to know and that we know so many of our students need and require, but it’s time New Mexico. We are coming back and coming back safely.”

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/.

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