Home News COVID-19 Situation COVID pushes two school districts into remote learning

COVID pushes two school districts into remote learning

Dexter Consolidated School District plans to start remote learning Thursday due to the number of staff and students reporting ill or needing to quarantine. Hagerman instituted remote learning Wednesday. Both expect classroom instruction to begin again Jan. 19. (Daily Record File Photo)

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School leaders with Dexter Consolidated School District and Hagerman Municipal Schools have decided to switch to remote learning only until Jan. 19 due to the number of people reporting sick with COVID-19 or other illnesses, as well as the number of people required to quarantine because they have come in close contact with those testing positive for the coronavirus.

Hagerman Municipal Schools announced its decision, effective Wednesday, on Monday afternoon. Dexter Consolidated School District posted its announcement to social media Tuesday. Remote learning for Dexter starts Thursday.

Dexter Superintendent Miles Mitchell said that 20% of teachers and employees were reporting sick, due either to COVID-19 or some other issue, or because they had to quarantine.

“As of yesterday afternoon, in two buildings, I had over 25% of students out, either COVID related or general sickness,” he added.

The district has an enrollment of about 800.

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The Dexter district used Wednesday as a preparation for students and to allow communication with parents, Mitchell said, but added that students and teachers are prepared for remote learning.

“We’ve been preparing since the first week of school of the first semester,” Mitchell said.

A basketball tournament involving the Dexter district scheduled for this week has been canceled, with a game scheduled for Jan. 18 still expected to occur.

The district is providing “grab and go” meals for breakfasts from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. and lunches from 11 a.m. to noon at the high school cafeteria on Thursday, Friday and Tuesday. No meals will be provided on Monday, which is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday when local schools were due to have a holiday anyway.

He added that the New Mexico Public Education Department had authorized the return to in-person learning on Jan. 19.

Hagerman Superintendent Curtis Clough said that he would not release information about the numbers of people affected by COVID-19 positive tests or quarantine because of the possibility that the individuals could be identified.

“I can just tell you that we closed because there were key losses in our support staff, and we are monitoring the situation,” he said.

Positive cases and quarantining also affected the student body, he added. The district has about 400 students this year.

Clough explained that he would determine if changes to the district’s plans were needed based on the revised COVID-19 toolkit issued by the New Mexico Public Education Department Wednesday afternoon.

According to a PED news release, the major revisions in the toolkit are to reduce required self-isolation for those who test positive for COVID and required quarantines for those who have had close contact with COVID-positive people from 10 days to five days.

School district employees will need their COVID booster shot, not just their primary shots, to avoid the quarantine requirements as close contacts of COVID cases.

The PED said the new guidance reflects policies adopted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Mexico Health Department.

The PED also indicated that 12% of the state’s 847 public schools had COVID cases that were above 5% of the school’s population.

Hagerman’s Clough said that students and parents will be kept informed about district plans by online posts and direct calls.

“We do social media, and we also do all calls to all our parents,” he said.

He said students and staff used Tuesday to make sure that all students had the needed computers and equipment for at-home learning.

He said the district had enough instructors for remote learning, as of Wednesday morning, and that the district was “operating as normal for the remote as they did last year.”

Because of a lack of food service staff able to prepare meals at this time, the district does not plan to provide breakfasts or lunches during the remote learning period, Clough added.

The district also canceled a Tuesday night athletic event and posted on social media that it will limit attendance at future athletic events for the time being, with student-athletes provided only two tickets per competition to provide to family and friends. Its next game is scheduled for Jan. 18.

Lake Arthur Municipal Schools Superintendent Elisa Begueria said that the district is still providing in-person instruction.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.