Schools are adjusting in varying degrees to the ongoing changes from both the state health and education departments.
The Public Education department updated its Covid-19 Response Toolkit on Sept. 14, which New Mexico public schools are using as a guideline to operate during a pandemic.
In the East Mountains and Estancia Valley, that has meant a mixed bag for everyone involved with the schools.
Moriarty-Edgewood School District
The Moriarty-Edgewood School District created an “enhanced Covid plan” based on the toolkit, which includes “looking at school-specific health data daily.” A school’s decision is based on “the best interests of the students,” according to Superintendent Teresa Salazar.
Guidelines include tracking data about the students, maintaining social distancing, mask-wearing and reporting exposure to family, students and faculty.
“Everyone is thrilled to be back to a regular 5-day week schedule with many pre-pandemic activities taking place. While there are still some challenges due to the spread of the Delta variant, overall it is great to be back and learning is happening,” said Salazar, adding, “Kids say ‘we love school’.”
She said staff has commented that they appreciate the cohesive plan that has been put in place that allows them to focus on instruction.
According to the PED, the Moriarty-Edgewood School District has had 60 Covid-positive cases since Aug. 1.
Moriarty High School had to cancel its homecoming football game due “to several positive cases of Covid on the team,” Salazar said.
She said the high contact in football and no mask being required for outdoor sports led to quarantine of the team. The pep rally, coronation, parade, and dance took place as planned.
The school district is currently in-person learning. “We have no schools in remote learning at this time. Our thresholds for implementing the next levels of intervention as per the enhanced Covid plan is 3% and 5%. We have not reached these thresholds at any school,” Salazar said.
Estancia Muncipal Schools
Estancia Muncipal Schools “will continue to implement Covid-safe practices as required by the PED, including mask-wearing, social distancing, sanitizing, and quarantining as needed,” according to Superintendent Cindy Sims.
Sims said the so far the 2021 school year is making “great progress with targeted interventions to address student learning needs in grades K-12. Teachers have been very intentional about providing layered interventions during classroom intervention time and secondary advisory time. Students and staff have been upbeat and positive, although tired with hot days and limited air conditioning along with getting back into the full time school routines.”
According to Sims, there have been 12 Covid-positive cases among staff and students in the last 13 days. The PED’s data shows the Estancia School District has had a total of 13 cases since Aug. 1.
Sims said the district has also seen an increase in absenteeism. As a result, the district moved back into distance learning last week.
The school board voted Sept. 29 to remain in distance learning through next week, “and we anticipate returning to in-person learning on Monday, Oct. 11,” Sims said.
“Our students learn best when in-person, so our goal is to return as soon as is safely possible! We hope we can reduce positivity, get past quarantines, and get back to in-person learning without losing too much of the fantastic momentum we had going,” Sims said.
She said the goal is for Covid to be in the background and students’ learning to be in the foreground. “To this end, we are prioritizing student engagement, rigorous instruction focused on standards, and targeted interventions to close learning gaps,” Sims said.
Mountainair Public Schools
Mountainair Schools held a board meeting Sept. 28. During the meeting discussed the new PED toolkit and voted unanimously to implement it.
The school board also discussed a project the district is currently working on at the middle and high school of building barriers in the classrooms so that students don’t have to wear the mask at their desks.
Superintendent Dawn Apodaca said last year the school put barriers into all of the elementary level classrooms and as result of those installations they had “zero cases last year.”
Apodaca said the elementary school kids did really well last year staying at their desks behind the barriers when the masks were off and putting them back on during transitory periods.
“I believe that after having our freedoms back over the summer, staff and students alike were thinking we were finally going to have a normal school year. This year is not normal. Staff and students alike are already stressed out and it’s far too early for that,” she said.
Apodaca said in response to the stressful environment they are “enhancing the ‘typical’ school year events.”
“The students and staff enjoyed and really participated in the Homecoming activities,” she said, adding, “There is more to come.”
She said her school district is encouraging social distancing, washing and sanitizing regularly, and has physical distancing implemented in the cafeteria. In addition they are monitoring the temperatures of both the students and the staff as they enter the building in the morning and at lunch.
The PED reported Mountainair schools having 13 cases since the beginning of August. Apodaca said all the cases were in the faculty.
In the student population, there have been no reports of Covid at the school, Apodaca said. “We have been notified of positive cases, most were at home,” she said, adding, “We did have 3 cases where we had to identify close contacts but we have had NO spread in my buildings.”
East Mountain High School
East Mountain High School has had a smooth school year with only two Covid-positive cases reported.
“The start of this school year was one of the smoothest and most joyous we can remember. Students and staff were thrilled to be back in person,” said Principal Trey Smith.
Smith said the vaccination rate among students and staff is “very high, so we should be better protected.”
East Mountain is currently doing in-person learning. “Students are very respectful of the mask mandate, and we have very few issues with it,” Smith said, adding, “Our teachers are taking advantage of our outdoor learning spaces everyday.”
The school will offer a remote option if there are “an excessive amount of snow days or if we need to quarantine large amounts of students,” Smith said.
Estancia Valley Classical Academy
According to the PED, Estancia Valley Classical Academy has had five Covid cases since Aug. 1.
The school principal did not respond to requests for information before The Independent went to publication.