The Magdalena School District is looking for feedback from the community on its tentative fall reopening plan.
The school district is planning to require most of its students to participate in-person for the 2021-2022 school year, in an effort to ensure students successfully complete their courses. Approximately a quarter of the district’s 80 high school students failed one or more courses during the last school year of primarily online learning, said Keri James, the district’s federal and state program coordinator.
There will not be a virtual learning option for elementary school students in the district, said James, but a policy for remote learning is being developed for middle and high school students. Students would have to apply to do remote learning and their grades and attendance for the last year of remote learning would be reviewed by a team of staff members as part of that process.
The reopening plan is one requirement for the district to receive almost $1.7 million in federal funding from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, created by the American Rescue Plan. The funds are meant to help schools recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding has been allocated to school districts throughout the state, including $4.4 million for the Socorro School District.
The reopening plan that has been released is a draft, not a finalized plan. The district is required to solicit public comment from the community to help it revise the plan. The public comment is being collected throughout the month of July. The reopening plan is available on the district’s website, and the district is also mailing out copies of the plan to district families. The district staff have an idea of what policies will be in place next school year, said James, but nothing will be finalized until the final reopening plan deadline of August 24.
To give feedback on the plan, contact James at firstname.lastname@example.org or 575-854-8009.
In the plan draft, face masks are required and social distancing is encouraged. The school district has to follow whatever guidance on safety regulations, including face masks and social distancing, that is given by the New Mexico Public Education Department and by the Department of Health. Although the regulations could change before the school year begins in the fall, the most recent regulations the district was given are face masks will be required and social distancing will be encouraged.
A primary focus in the next school year will be social-emotional learning, said James, given the trauma left on everyone coming out of the pandemic.
“We’re really going to focus on social and emotional learning so that those kids can get their basic needs met in a way that will allow them to concentrate in school,” said James.
The district has used some of the federal funding to hire a therapist to provide free counseling on-site for the school district. Students in special education programs have had access to therapists in the past, but the students not in that program have not had access to a therapist at school before.
The district staff also want to use the funds for community programs the school district has never been able to offer before. Some students were not able to graduate in the last two years because of the pandemic, so James said the district is considering using the funding to put an adult GED program in the school.
James is getting feedback from the community on the idea of offering a childcare program for children birth to two years, as the lack of childcare for children in that age range was a hindrance for some staff members and families during the pandemic.
The district may also put some of the federal funding towards community wellness programs, which could offer evening classes on the school campus like yoga, wellness or mediation, open to anyone in the community.
James has already reached out to local business owners about the possibility of using the funds for a work-study program in the community, where the district would pay students to work at local businesses. The program could provide students with hands-on skills and local businesses hit hard during the pandemic with workers, said James.
“We are the heart of the community, the school always has been. Now we’re going to have some additional funding where we can really make the school community the strongest that it has been and that’s really exciting to us,” said James.
The funding will also be used to update equipment and facilities, like putting new stoves and sinks in the culinary arts classroom.