For Immediate Release
June 23, 2020
Contact: Deborah Martinez, Media Relations
505.501.4600 | Deborah.Martinez2@state.nm.us
NMPED Announces School Reentry Plan to Safely Reboot Learning
SANTA FE – New Mexico’s Public Education Department on Tuesday announced the state’s plan for students to safely and methodically resume classes this fall, beginning with careful preparation and guidance from the New Mexico Department of Health and Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s medical advisory team.
“New Mexicans from all walks of life and all corners of the state have come together in amazing ways and through noteworthy sacrifice to contain the spread of the coronavirus in our state,” said Education Secretary Ryan Stewart. “We’re not through this pandemic by a long shot, but as we learn to live safely in a COVID-positive world, this collective effort has flattened the curve to the point where we can engage in the process of reentering our school buildings.”
Secretary Stewart one month ago convened a reentry task force that included educators, parents, administrators, public health officials, and many other stakeholder groups to look at options for safely and expeditiously getting students back on track with learning. The work of the task force informed the guidance below, in addition to surveys of families, educators, and research.
The state’s goal is to move all schools into a full school schedule as soon as it is safely possible. Across New Mexico, the 2020-2021 school year will begin with a hybrid model in which the number of students in the building is limited to allow for maximum social distancing. Students will rotate between in-person and online learning.
The Department of Health and medical advisory team will continue to aggressively track and regularly assess rates of spread of the virus. Based on the data from this initial period, state health officials will determine when and where schools can safely move into a full reentry mode.
This phased approach to reentry represents a prudent and responsible process that will ensure educators, school staff, students and their families are as safe as can be every single day.
- The phased approach allows the state to analyze the impact of a controlled reentry before moving into a full-scale implementation. This will help ensure that the epidemiological assumptions about how schools impact virus transmission can be thoroughly tested before full reentry.
- Schools will likely need to implement hybrid or remote models at some point in the year. The phased approach allows for preparation and practice in the implementation of this model at the beginning of the year so that schools and communities are ready for this eventuality later in the year
- The phased approach balances the legitimate concerns of families who expressed anxiety about returning full-scale right away with those who are rightly eager to return to a full school schedule.
In addition, schools will implement enhanced preventative measures. The following requirements will be in place for all schools whether operating in a hybrid or traditional model:
- Large group gatherings will be avoided at school buildings;
- Face coverings are required except while eating, drinking and exercising (with very limited exceptions for students and staff with medical conditions precluding wearing of a mask or face shield; those medical conditions must be documented);
- Schools must adhere to social distancing requirements of their designated category;
- All staff must be screened every day, including a temperature check and review of potential symptoms upon arrival at school;
- All staff must participate in ongoing surveillance testing;
- All sites must coordinate with local health officials to conduct contact tracing and rapid response testing;
- All transportation staff and students boarding buses must wear face coverings;
- Meals must be provided to students during both in-person instruction and remote learning.
Schools must create plans for and be prepared to remain in a hybrid model or shift to a distance learning model should health conditions necessitate such actions.
Public Education Department leaders will host a conference call for the media on Tuesday, June 23 from 2:00-2:30 pm. Please contact Deborah Martinez at Deborah.Martinez2@state.nm.us to RSVP and to receive login information.
“I have complete confidence that this reentry plan keeps the health and safety of our students as the number one priority as we navigate the next school year amidst the pandemic,” Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart confirmed. “I have seen the resilience of our youth, their families, the community and our teachers who have never faltered in their commitment to excellence. Our combined efforts will help us regain the momentum that began with the election of Governor Lujan Grisham and her focus on education.”