Moriarty and Estancia high schools rolled out their hybrid learning models this week, paving the way for the return of their sports programs. Now East Mountain High School has announced that it will also be joining the return-to-play party.

In an email to students, parents, staff, and coaches, East Mountain principal Trey Smith said the school “will offer an optional small hybrid experience beginning Feb. 22.”

Smith’s email also said that “offering this option will qualify our athletic teams for participation.”

“I’m super pumped,” East Mountain athletic director and head volleyball coach Kasi Giovenco said about the announcement. “I am very excited, I’m thrilled for my girls, I’m excited for all the sports.”

“It’s an official thing, so yeah, it’s really big for me,” East Mountain junior Kaylee Baker said about the announcement during her girls soccer workout this week. “I’m big on my sports and that’s something that I enjoy doing, so it’s good to come back and do them.”

Several East Mountain teams have been holding offseason workouts on and off since last fall, but uncertainty remained about when the school would officially resume full practices and competitions—leaving student-athletes, parents, and even some coaches wondering if the school’s athletics and activities programs would be left on the sidelines.

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As recently as last week, Giovenco said the return of the school’s sports and activities programs was still up in the air due to the state’s requirement that a school be in a hybrid model.

Last month, the Public Education Department gave a green light to athletics and activities resuming Feb. 22—provided school districts return to an approved hybrid model.

That left some school districts, including Albuquerque Public Schools—the largest school district in the state and East Mountain’s authorizing body—with the task of coming up with a PED-approved hybrid model.

Smith said multiple school districts, including APS, also objected to athletics being tied to an acceptable hybrid model.

But Smith said he recently got clarification from the PED that “any student who wants to be on campus two times a week can be—and that constitutes a hybrid. It sounds pretty silly but that is what the model hybrid is.”

Smith said that clarification “made the path doable for us,” adding, “My biggest concern this whole time has been our extracurricular activities, our sports, our clubs—this is the stuff high schoolers remember.”

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Smith confirmed that East Mountain’s approved hybrid model gets the school qualified to resume sports.

Giovenco said she remains a little guarded after all the postponements that have taken place over the past several months: volleyball and cross country were both postponed from September to October, and then were pushed back to February.

“It’s just that fear of getting let down again, the fear of something happening,” Giovenco said, adding that she hopes nothing happens in the next few weeks that would result in another rescheduling.

She held a Zoom meeting this week with her volleyball players, and said, “Everyone’s super excited, you could see that they’re ready. I think they’re all ready to go.”

Baker, who in addition to playing soccer also won a gold medal in track in 2019, said she feels great about finally getting the chance to compete again after a seemingly endless offseason.

“I’m so excited,” Baker said. “I mean, we may not have that many games but I’m excited to have a season, like, I miss playing with everyone.”

“This is a big win, and it makes me excited,” Smith said. “Especially for the student-athletes who want to do this.”