By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

In-person teaching delayed


July 29, 2020

New Mexico's governor announced Thursday the delay of in-person classes at public schools through Labor Day because of a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in recent weeks.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said schools would resort entirely to online teaching when the year begins in mid-August until at least Sept. 8 — the first day in-person classes are scheduled to resume.

After Labor Day, she said the goal was to have schools phase in a hybrid model of in-person and online classes.

She said in-person classes would begin first with kindergarten through fifth-grade students because they have the most difficult time with remote learning and are the highest-risk of falling behind academically. Middle-school students would begin in-person classes after that, then high school.

The Logan and San Jon school boards were scheduled to meet Monday to approve online teaching plans or school calendar alterations because of the order. Both meetings were past the Quay County Sun’s copy deadlines.

She expressed reluctance to delay the start of in-person classes but noted 85% of educators in the state don't think it is safe for them to resume. Lujan Grisham also said school districts representing 40% of the state’s students already had announced they would use online-only teaching before her announcement.

“I do not feel comfortable beginning any form of in-person learning in the month of August,” she said. “I know many parents and educators and students feel the same way. Until we can regain control of this virus, until our fight in this public health crisis begins to once again bear real fruit, we will not unduly risk even one New Mexican’s health or life or livelihood.

“With another month of strong collective efforts to fight COVID-19, using that time to continue to prepare and to help educators get the professional development they need to thrive in an online and remote environment, I am optimistic the state will be able to begin to adopt a hybrid model for phased groupings of students after Labor Day.”

The New Mexico Department of Health reported a record-high 343 confirmed cases of coronavirus Thursday. David Scrase, the state's Human Services secretary, said the seven-day average of cases had more than doubled in the last five weeks.

Lujan Grisham said schools still can serve special-needs students in small groups and one-on-one settings when the school year begins in mid-August. She said small groups of five children of fewer from kindergarten through third grade also can be taught in-person. Students needing more support would be given higher priority.

She said the state's Public Education Department and Early Childhood Education and Care Department would set up childcare options throughout the state during the interim.

As for higher education, Lujan Grisham said colleges and universities would use online and remote learning this fall. Several such institutions, including Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari, had planned a mix of in-person and online teaching before the order.


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