Farmington middle/high school students return to the classroom after nearly a year

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Tibbetts Middle School sixth grade students walk to their second period classes on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. It was the first day for hybrid learning for Farmington middle and high school students.
  • The Farmington School District is the second San Juan County School public school district to have middle/high school students return this week.
  • The Bloomfield School District and Central Consolidated School District are set to return on Feb. 16 along with the remaining middle and high school students in Aztec and Farmington.
  • More than 50 percent of the Tibbetts student body were interested in hybrid-learning, so students were split into two groups.

FARMINGTON — The halls of Tibbetts Middle School were a little quieter and less crowded Feb. 9 than they would have been during a pre-pandemic school day. Students in sixth and ninth grade returned to Farmington classrooms after spending about 11 months in remote learning.

For the sixth-grade students at Tibbetts, it was their first day in the new building after completing fifth-grade last school year.

Farmington Municipal Schools is one of two San Juan County public school districts to have middle and high school students return this week. The sixth and ninth-grade students in the Aztec Municipal School District returned on Feb. 8.

Previous coverage:County schools set to offer expanded hybrid learning

District officials for both Aztec and Farmington previously told The Daily Times the early return was to give students time to become familiar with their new school.

The Bloomfield School District and Central Consolidated School District are set to return on Feb. 16 along with the remaining middle and high school students in Aztec and Farmington.

Tibbetts Middle School sixth grader Rose Benally, left, is dropped by her father Curtis Ray Benally on the first day of hybrid learning on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021, for Farmington middle and high school students.

Farmington schools spokesperson Renee Lucero told The Daily Times that it had been 332 days since middle and high school students had in-person instruction.

Students didn’t return to the classroom after spring break in March 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic fired up in the United States.

Elementary school students returned for hybrid learning in the Fall 2020 semester.

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Tibbetts Principal Tammie Hansen stood next to a cart she dubbed her “mobile office” as students arrived at school.

She spoke with staff as they guided students to their first period class.

Hansen told The Daily Times some families were apprehensive about their students returning to the classroom.

Tibbetts physical education teacher Reta Dominguez leads a tour of the school's campus for in-person and remote learning on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. It was the first day for Farmington middle and high school students to return to the classroom for hybrid learning.

They were concerned their children would be exposed to COVID-19 then return home and expose family that are vulnerable to the coronavirus. She said her staff is committed to keeping everyone safe.

Hansen also acknowledged adolescents benefit from the social aspect of being back in the classroom, giving them a reprieve from a daily group video call.

“They are just anxious to get back to seeing peers, to seeing their teachers, to learning in an easier way,” Hansen said.

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Many of the classrooms in the sixth-grade wing were sparsely full on the morning of Feb. 9.

More than 50 percent of the Tibbetts student body were interested in hybrid-learning, so students were split into two groups.

Each group spends two days in the classroom and the remainder of the week in remote learning.

Some Farmington elementary schools have students spending four days in the classroom as they didn’t hit the capacity limit implemented by the New Mexico Public Education Department.

Tibbetts Middle School students, from left to right, Karla Castillo, Rylie Barton, Rose Benally and Aden Clah, attend Alexia Martinez's class on Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2021. It was the first day for Farmington middle and high school students to return to hybrid learning.

All Farmington middle and high schools have students split into two groups, as more than 50 percent sought hybrid learning.

Teachers were spotted carrying laptops walking through the building, as they led the in-person and remote learning students in a tour of the Tibbetts campus.

Staff in the hallways reminded students to stay six feet apart as they were given a tour of the building.

Some classes had less than five students show up for hybrid learning.

By giving the sixth-grade students a head-start for in-person learning, it also gave staff a chance to implement the safety protocols they have been learning in recent months and weeks.

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Staff are teaching simultaneously to students in the classroom and those on their computers learning remotely.

Language Arts Resource Teacher Nora Montoya has 13 sixth-grade students returning for two class periods this week.

She spent her planning period on Feb. 9 helping direct students in the hallway.

Montoya welcomed some students back into the classroom about three weeks ago as part of the Jumpstart program.

The program allows special education students to attend school at a reduced teacher-to-student ratio.

Montoya felt pretty safe with the protocols the district implemented but said it changed the flow of teaching from previous years.

“It was different at first, just because we're so used to being able to be close to one another and now we're having to stay the six feet apart,” Montoya said.

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.

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