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Gottlieb: RISD return to full-time classes goes smoothly

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Roswell Independent School District returned to full-time in-person instruction this week and Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said the transition from the hybrid learning model has gone smoothly.

“So far, so good,” Gottlieb said Tuesday. “The schools are still following all the guidelines and got everybody in.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department announced on March 8 that schools were eligible to return to five-day-a-week in-school instruction for all students who chose to do so and would be expected to do so by April 5.

According to the PED’s school reentry status list updated Monday, 48 districts and charter schools had moved to full reentry.

About 90% of elementary students had returned to the classrooms full-time, Gottlieb said, and 78% of middle school students had returned. Among the high schools, 65% of students were back in the classrooms.

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Gottlieb said the number of students returning for in-person classes is higher at the elementary levels than in the middle and high schools, largely because at the higher grade levels, students could opt to enroll in Apex Learning, a self-paced online option the district offered in the fall.

“If you choose that, you have to be on the entire semester. There were some, they decided they just could not do it and they came back, but the majority of the Apex students stayed. To change over is quite difficult,” Gottlieb said.

The PED also reported last week that no New Mexico schools were closed due to having more than four COVID-19 cases in a two-week period. Several have been on the the PED’s COVID-19 watch list with two Rapid Responses in a two-week period. A Rapid Response is when the state responds to reports of COVID-19 cases in a facility to help prevent the spread of the disease through cleaning, contact tracing and other measures.

No RISD schools have been on the watch list since February.

Gottlieb said Monday’s return to the buildings for all students did not bring any unusual COVID-19 activity.

“We still have to follow the same guidelines on that. For example, if you have one in a classroom or family, all the kids and everybody in that classroom has to be home for 10 days, even if they don’t have it,” he said.

Schools must observe other COVID-Safe Practices including masks worn by all students and staff, social distancing in classes, meals eaten outdoors when possible and having daily sanitization protocols in place.

The district is still conducting required weekly surveillance testing of staff, but is only required to test 12.5% of the staff each week with Chaves County now in the Green Level of the state’s COVID-19 risk assessment system. In the Red Level, the state required 25% of staff to be tested.

Gottlieb said at least 58% of the RISD staff has been fully vaccinated and are not required to be tested. That percentage could be even higher, he said, as some staff members received vaccine doses from sources outside the district.

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

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