Serving the High Plains

San Jon board votes to end senior trip for students

SAN JON — The San Jon Municipal Schools board of trustees voted last week to end the annual senior trip for students partly because of concerns of the New Mexico Legislature’s possible elimination of qualified immunity.

This year’s senior trip isn’t happening because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Class of 2021’s subsequent inability to raise funds for the trip.

But superintendent Janet Gladu during the board’s meeting March 8 recommended deleting the daylong senior trip permanently in favor of other Senior Week activities at the school. She said a loss of qualified immunity could make her teachers and staff members liable in case something bad happens during a trip.

“The senior trip is a lawsuit waiting to happen,” she told the board.

One bill in the state legislature would have amended the New Mexico Tort Claims Act to prohibit the use of qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields government officials, including law enforcement, from being held personally liable for actions that violate a person’s constitutional rights.

Numerous state legislatures have ended qualified immunity in the wake of protests over police brutality cases involving minorities.

That bill failed to advance last week out of the state’s Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee when two Democrats joined with a Republican to oppose it.

The legislative session ends March 20, which gives lawmakers little time to act on a possible new version of the bill.

Answering a follow-up question via email, Gladu said she was thinking about eliminating the senior trip not just because of possible legislative action.

“As a district, we are always striving to be diligent in providing optimal student safety and lowering risks,” she wrote.

Gladu said Senior Week once consisted of a day trip, painting the parking lot, parent events, etc. — “basically activities that are focused on culminating students’ school years.”

In other business:

• The board approved a revision of the district’s sick-leave policy.

Gladu said other districts’ policies “were all over the place” with their wording.

San Jon’s policy included changes that family illness for the purpose of sick leave shall not exceed a period of three consecutive days unless it’s approved by a superintendent. Also, no compensation for unused sick-leave days is permitted for employees leaving the district.

The revision eliminates a paragraph that allows unused sick days to accumulate to a maximum of 90 days for professional staff, as which time no more sick leave can accrue. Left intact is a paragraph that states each professional staff member will be credited with a sick leave allowance of eight days per year.

Full-time support staff can earn up to 12 days of sick leave per calendar year.

• Regarding effects pf the pandemic, Gladu said the school again will become an open campus after spring break in late March.

The school carnival remains postponed, and the annual Missoula Children’s Theatre production has been rescheduled to 2022.

She said sports events at the gym can hold up to 174 people with the current 25% capacity rules, though that increased Wednesday to 33% capacity when Quay County landed in the turquoise level in COVID-19 risk assessment.

Gladu said the district would continue to stream volleyball games on the internet because far-flung grandparents of players can watch them.

• The board approved a $57,108 budget decrease from the state equalization grant that allocates money per student. Gladu said the decrease is not a concern, as the district’s budget “still looks great.”