SANTA FE – On top of the exploding number of COVID-19 cases, school officials are citing another factor for closing down in-person learning – teacher vacations.
Worried in part that their staff members are traveling out of state for the holidays and need to quarantine when they come back, school administrators across the state have canceled some in-person learning, while others have and pushed remote learning further into next year than previously planned.
“We expect some of our staff, students and families to travel during winter break, and they will need 14 days to quarantine when they return, so a Jan. 5 target date for a hybrid learning wasn’t realistic,” Albuquerque Public Schools board of education President David Peercy said.
The district, which has pushed in-person learning back further and further, will extend remote learning until at least Jan. 19.
Schools in Rio Rancho, Santa Fe and Hobbs also scaled back existing in-person learning programs because of anticipated staffing concerns starting next week.
“I’m really disappointed that any worker – health care workers, first responders, educators – are traveling,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Thursday. “You put your whole community, your whole family at extreme risk.”
Teachers work for school districts, not the state, and few if any have travel restrictions in their contracts.
That’s not the case for state employees, some of whom the governor says are being investigated for flouting coronavirus restrictions.
“We’ve got state employees who’ve not been adhering to the strict, public health practices, and they are required to. That should be actionable,” Lujan Grisham said.
Small groups of students may be allowed to return to classrooms soon, though which students get priority for a limited number of in-person seats is an open question. Districts generally agree with state officials that younger children are hurt the most from remote learning and are at the least risk for COVID-19.
“We will provide services again beginning Dec. 7 for our students with special needs,” Hobbs Municipal Schools Superintendent TJ Parks said.
Most districts, like Hobbs, are also focusing on creating programming for students with disabilities.
Albuquerque has also implemented in-person programs for special education students. If more students are allowed to return under a hybrid model next year, the district plans to begin with elementary students with the highest need.
“Students who are struggling, those who would benefit most from in-person instruction would be first on the list, and we would expand the hybrid model from there,” Interim Superintendent Scott Elder said.