After a year of online learning for some students and hybrid learning for other students, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Tuesday that all students are allowed to return on Feb. 8.
Lujan Grisham said she is allowing for “schools and districts to safely expand in-person learning for all ages of students.”
Previously, only elementary school children were allowed to be in-person.
After the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, all students were required to learn remotely for two weeks to help combat the spread of the coronavirus. On Jan. 19, students at the elementary level were allowed to start back in a hybrid learning style.
“People were very pleased whenever we did it in the fall. It’s kind of like not normal, but it’s what they expect to be happening now,” said Ron Hendrix, Socorro Consolidated Schools superintendent. “There really hasn’t been anything new since the fall. Parents were very pleased that their kids were able to come back to school.”
The State of New Mexico and the Public Education Department said to help combat the spread of the coronavirus that all hybrid students must participate in online learning for those two weeks.
“We had to spend almost $24,000 for hotspots and different things to make sure everyone would be covered for those two weeks,” Hendrix said. “It was ridiculous, a big fat waste of money.”
Hendrix said that he believes doing remote instruction with elementary school children is difficult because there isn’t the one-on-one instruction that the students respond to.
“The instruction really is not what it should be so we know our kids aren’t getting all of the content that they need to be getting,” he said. “All of the data says that one year of bad instruction takes about three years to overcome. We are coming up on a year of basically remote or a little bit of hybrid stuff so we know we have kids who are going to be behind for a good while.”
Hendrix said how the instruction isn’t poor, the students are just having a hard time focusing on a screen all day because it is a hard way to learn.
Assistant superintendent Denise Cannon said that some students are excelling with online learning, but that most are struggling.
“High schoolers want to be around other high schoolers and their friends and the social aspect is very important to them,” she said. “Having that instruction face-to-face with their teacher that they are missing out on.”
Cannon said the students who are excelling are those who “really want to focus on the learning” and others who are “a little outside of the box” due to being picked on and similar experiences.
Online learning, Cannon said, has also had a great impact on the teachers who struggle with technology.
“Their whole world was turned upside down,” Cannon said. “For kids, they have grown up on computers – it’s second nature to them. For the teachers who have had a little more difficulties with technology, they have had to revamp everything – how they do their instruction. We have some amazing teachers who have worked so hard.”
At Parkview Elementary, principal Laurie Ocampo said during the Board of Education meeting that roughly one-third of the students are fully in-person while the other two-thirds are online learners.
Each student has a desk with an acrylic shield that is six-feet away from another student’s desk. The lower grade levels are seated two-per-table with a shield in the middle of the table.
Students are required to eat breakfast and lunch in the classroom to help limit movement throughout the building. The specials teachers are going to each individual classroom for those lessons except for physical education which is twice a week.
To leave the classroom for physical education or to go to the playground after lunch, the students use the closest exit to their classroom.
All students, staff and faculty members have to wear a face mask at all times and there are sanitizing stations set up around the school. Before entering the school, everyone has to have their temperature taken.
They have also placed decals on the floors that are six-feet apart so that students know where to stand.
Hendrix said how the two weeks without students was difficult for the Parkview teachers and that they were excited to have the students back in the classroom.
“Just the fact that if you go into Parkview Elementary when the kids aren’t there, you have some teachers who were in tears (because) they were missing their kids so much that they want them back,” he said. “These are people who love kids and they need to be around these kids. They are just good people.”