County school districts react to news of hybrid learning for middle/high school students

Expansion of hybrid learning can start on Feb. 8 statewide

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Aztec Municipal School District began hybrid instruction after Labor Day. Small groups of students come into Park Avenue Elementary for in-person instruction on Sept. 23, 2020.
  • The governor made the announcement during her State of the State address she made to the New Mexico Legislature on Jan. 26.
  • Some elementary schools were able to offer hybrid learning for the current school year after all schools went to remote learning at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.
  • The Aztec Municipal School District was the first San Juan County district to offer dates that middle and high school students could return for hybrid learning.

FARMINGTON — San Juan County superintendents mostly applauded Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s announcement of hybrid learning being expanded in public schools

It comes as the Bloomfield superintendent raises safety and operational concerns as a district elementary school closes to in-person learning due to a positive COVID-19 case.

The governor made the announcement during the virtual State of the State address she made to the New Mexico Legislature on Jan. 26.

New Mexico:Schools given the OK to reopen in hybrid model on Feb. 8. Here's what we know.

The announcement comes as school districts waited for plans from the New Mexico Public Education Department on hybrid learning for middle and high school students.

Some elementary schools were able to offer hybrid learning for the current school year after all schools went to remote learning at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

The Aztec Municipal School District was the first San Juan County district to offer dates that middle and high school students could return for hybrid learning, according to Aztec Superintendent Kirk Carpenter.

The first group of sixth grade students at C.V. Koogler Middle School, ninth-grade students at Aztec High School and at Vista Nueva High School can return on Feb. 8.

The first group of students in the remaining grades will start on Feb. 16.

Sixth- and ninth-grade students have not received a campus orientation this school year and the early start will help them get acquainted with each campus, Carpenter said.

Students will be notified soon as to which group or cohort they are placed in.

The Farmington Municipal School District is aiming to start up hybrid learning for middle and high school students on Feb. 9, according to District Spokesperson Renee Lucero.

A lot of decisions for Farmington students will be based on the results of parent surveys, which have been sent out or will be sent out soon.

It will gather information on which students are interested in hybrid learning or remaining in remote learning.

New Mexico: Governor calls for 'generational investment' in children during state address

That information will shape how classroom schedules are produced and will be shared as Feb. 9 approaches, according to Lucero.

When hybrid learning was first introduced in the fall, seven Farmington elementary schools were able to welcome students for in-person learning four days a week.

Mesa Verde, Ladera and Country Club elementary schools limited some grades to two days of in-person learning for students after having a large demand from the community.

Like in Aztec schools, Farmington sixth- and ninth-grade students are set for an earlier return to help them get acclimated to their new schools, according to Lucero.

The Central Consolidated School District along with Aztec and Farmington schools are excited to welcome secondary students back to hybrid learning.

CCSD Spokesman Roberto Taboada told The Daily Times that Superintendent Daniel Benavidez appreciates the Feb. 8 start date and is thankful this decision wasn’t delayed any longer.

No date had had been scheduled for CCSD middle and high school students to return to hybrid learning.

In the Bloomfield School District, the closure of Central Primary Elementary School has highlighted some of the issues New Mexico school districts face as in-person learning expands to more students.

A Jan. 24 Bloomfield School District Facebook post stated the elementary school would be closed to in-person learning for an undetermined amount of time.

Bloomfield Superintendent Kim Mizell told The Daily Times it was a single positive case of COVID-19 which led to the closure.

COVID-19: Eli Lilly says monoclonal antibody cocktail cuts hospitalizations by 70% for high-risk COVID-19 patients

She did not specify if a student or staffer tested positive, but the number of people exposed to that individual prompted the return to remote learning.

The COVID-19 protocols mandated by the state education department has created issues for Bloomfield schools, according to Mizell.

She said the district is awaiting guidance from the PED before making announcements regarding hybrid learning.

Bloomfield schools has had an issue of teachers not volunteering for COVID-19 surveillance testing.

Mizell said the district is dealing with a lack of resources to conduct the necessary contact tracing at Central Primary.

She also said it is very difficult to keep a school open with these protocols and urges the state education department to lift some of the protocols related to in-person learning.

Another issue for Mizell is a lack of vaccinations so far for her educators.

Essential workers like teachers who are unable to work remotely are part of the state’s Phase 1B vaccine rollout that is underway.

A potential issue the district could face is a school like Bloomfield High School would have to close to in-person learning if four or more positive cases occur on campus.

Mizell wants a sense of consistency for students, and she believes jumping back and forth between hybrid and remote learning could be harmful.

She was set to inform the Bloomfield School District Board of Education of these issues during a Jan. 27 special meeting but it was canceled following Gov. Lujan Grisham’s announcement.

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