SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ per month. Save 90%
SUBSCRIBE NOW
99¢ per month. Save 90%

2 San Juan County school districts postpone in-person classes after last-minute state changes

Aztec elementary students are still set for in-person instruction beginning next week.

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • The Bloomfield and Farmington school districts announced on Sept. 3 and 4 that select students set to return to classrooms on Sept. 8 will continue remote learning.
  • Farmington Superintendent Gene Schmidt said new standards mandate a reduction of classroom occupancy to 50 percent of a teacher's roster along with social distancing requirements already met.
  • Bloomfield Superintendent Kim Mizell said in the letter the district is unable to meet additional requirements specified on Sept. 3 regarding student and staff personal protection equipment (PPE).

FARMINGTON — Two San Juan County public school districts will postpone in-person instruction set to start next week after the state education department made last-minute changes to re-entry requirements.

The Bloomfield and Farmington school districts announced on Sept. 3 and 4 that select students set to return to classrooms on Sept. 8 will continue remote learning.

Farmington Municipal School District Superintendent Gene Schmidt in a Sept. 3 letter said remote learning will continue until at least Oct. 9, which is the end of the first nine-week quarter.

Schmidt wrote that the guidelines for school re-entry plans changed during a conference call district officials had with New Mexico Public Education Department Secretary Ryan Stewart on the morning of Sept. 3.

"I can’t do or say enough to express my disappointment for our schools and community. Even a personal call to advocate on our community’s behalf to Secretary Stewart brought no change," Gene Schmidt said.

Dr. Gene Schmidt

The superintendent said new standards mandate a reduction of classroom occupancy to 50 percent of a teacher's roster along with social distancing requirements already met.

MORE:Here are the New Mexico school districts and charter schools eligible to reopen

Schmidt said the change was completely unexpected as the state education department previously approved the district's school re-entry plan.

Farmington was set to accept preschool through fifth-grade students on Sept. 8 for in-person instruction. 

In-person instruction would have been from Tuesday through Friday, with home learning on Mondays, according to Farmington schools Spokesperson Renee Lucero.

Schmidt's letter acknowledged some confusion which was created as the state education secretary said Farmington's school re-entry plan was approved.

MORE:Farmington Municipal Schools will offer both in-person and online-only learning options

It was during a state education press conference on the afternoon of Sept. 3 that Stewart said the four San Juan County public school systems were in the "green" and had approved school re-entry plans.

Dr. Ryan Stewart

The state education department is working with the governor's office and the state Department of Health to ensure the safety and health of children and educators in the state and to maximize in-person learning opportunities, according to Judy Gibbs Robinson, a deputy director of communications for the governor's  office.

"We understand the frustration this causes when safety requirements change and a plan approved one day is deemed insufficient the next, and we are so grateful to our New Mexico school leaders for their nimble response to this ever-evolving education ecosystem," Gibbs Robinson said. 

PPE requirements cause delay in Bloomfield

The Bloomfield School District sent out a letter on the afternoon of Sept. 4 to students and families stating the district would postpone plans for pre-kindergarten through sixth-grade students to start hybrid instruction on Sept. 8.

Bloomfield Superintendent Kim Mizell said in the letter the district is unable to meet additional requirements specified on Sept. 3 regarding student and staff personal protection equipment (PPE). 

"Please know that we really want to teach students in person and hope to be able to start the hybrid model at a later date," Mizell said. "Safety is our priority and we need time to acquire the additional PPE such as N95 (masks), gloves, gowns and face shields.

One group of students would have attended school on Monday and Tuesday with another group on Thursday and Friday with home learning on Wednesdays.

An empty playground is pictured, Friday, March 27, 2020, at Lydia Rippey Elementary School in Aztec. Aztec's elementary schools are poised to reopen on Sept. 8.

Aztec elementary schools ready to open

The Aztec Municipal School District is still set to offer in-person instruction for elementary students on Sept. 8, according to Superintendent Kirk Carpenter.

Aztec schools are set to offer hybrid instruction to two groups, with one group attending school Monday and Tuesday with the second group on Wednesday and Thursday with home learning on Fridays.

Carpenter said the change in classroom occupancy will not have a big impact on the district.

MORE:CCSD announces September start for upcoming school year amid coronavirus

Students in the Central Consolidated School District are set to start the school year on Sept. 14, according to The Daily Times archives.

Superintendent Daniel Benavidez said in an Aug. 25 Facebook video the students were expected to be online for the first nine weeks, but those plans could change depending on plans from the state.

CCSD Spokesperson Roberto Taboada did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e