Students at Sarracino Middle School sit in the gym after arriving at school. They have to sit socially distant and with their first-period class. Each student that rides the bus gets their temperature taken before getting on the bus and students who get driven to school have their temperature taken before they are allowed to enter.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain photos

Roughly half of the students at Sarracino Middle School returned to in-person classes on Monday as New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced on Jan. 26 that secondary schools could implement a hybrid learning model.

The plan for the middle school students to return was approved during the Socorro Consolidated Schools Board of Education meeting on Feb. 3.During the meeting, there were many concerns brought up by parents, including how safe the school would be, addressing the waitlist and what the schedule would look like.

Superintendent Ron Hendix said the district ordered air filters which were then placed in each classroom on Feb. 5.

“We did it because it is the correct thing to do and we want to make sure our students and staff are safe,” he said.

The building will also be disinfected each night.

Sarracino Middle School also put in their own safety measures in order to be as cautious as possible during this uncertain time.

In the hallways, there are arrows to show which way to walk, arrows pointing in and out of the doors and tape lined every six feet so students know how far apart to stay from other students.

Sarracino Middle School students walk in a single-file line and six-feet-apart to their first period classTo help limit students in the hallways, Sarracino has implemented the use of QR codes, a Google sheet and an app.

Students are to scan the QR code that is on the door leading into the cafeteria if they would like to go to the bathroom during lunch.

To leave to use the bathroom during class, the students use the Google sheet.

According to Sarracino principal Soni Lawson, the app will be phased in next week.

Lawson said that using the QR code, Google sheet and app will keep the students accountable because they have to enter all of their information and it is updated live so all the teachers will know where each student is.

When going to the bathroom, only one student is allowed in at a time and they have to flip a paper from green to red to show that it is being used.

To help with having both in-person and online learners, the students will be following a schedule that is similar to what they have been following this school year.

Mondays and Wednesdays are A days with Tusdays and Thursdays as B days:

8–9:35 a.m.: 1st/5th period
9:40–11:10 a.m.: 2nd/6th period
11:15 a.m.–1:20 p.m.: 3rd/7th period
11:20 a.m.–11:50 a.m.: A lunch
12:05–12:35 p.m.: B lunch
12:50–1:20 p.m.: C lunch
1:30–3 p.m.: 4th/8th period
3 p.m.: Dismissal
All eight periods will be held on Fridays:
8–8:45 a.m.: 1st period
8:50–9:25 a.m.: 2nd period
9:30–10:15 a.m.: 3rd period
10:20–11:05 a.m.: 4th period
11:10–11:40 a.m.: A lunch
11:45 a.m.–12:30 p.m.: 5th period for A
11:10–11:55 a.m.: 5th period for B
12–12:30 p.m.: B lunch
12:35–1:20 p.m.: 6th period
1:25–2:10 p.m.: 7th period
2:15–3:00 p.m.: 8th period
3 p.m.: Dismissal

Staff may start arriving at 7:30 a.m. while students can start arriving at 7:45 a.m. There is a 7:55 a.m. warning bell each morning.

When arriving at the school, the students who arrived on the bus can head right inside as they had their temperature taken prior to getting on the bus.

The students who are dropped off by their parents or guardians have to head to the cafeteria to have their temperature checked.

Staff members and all visitors also have to have their temperature taken.

“In our original plan, we had planned for the temperature checks to occur,” Lawson said during the board meeting. “Both entrances where students will be arriving — the one near the cafeteria and for drop off students, we were poised to have their temperature taken anyway and people lined up to be monitoring that. That could easily be put into place.”

After temperature checks, the students head to the gym where they are required to sit socially distanced with their first period class. Once it is time for the school day to start, each class leaves one after the other. The students are to walk in the hallway, with their class, in a single-file line and six-feet-apart.

A student has his temperature taken after getting dropped off at the school. Students are dropped off in the front and then have to walk around to the cafeteria.

If a student does have a temperature, is suspected of having COVID-19 or has been exposed to someone who does, there is an isolation hall where that student would go to insure that there is no spread in the school.

Students who need to be treated in the nurse’s office will be treated in a clear bubble. There are three bubbles set up in the nurse’s office that each contain a chair.

Sarracino will also be disinfected during the lunch periods, which is why there are three this year. It also allows the school to decrease the amount of kids in the cafeteria.

During the board meeting, there was discussion about whether the students would return for a full-day schedule or if they would be returning in cohorts.

“This plan we have right now gets the most kids in for a full day,” Lawson said during the board meeting. “If we go to a cohort, we are reducing the amount of kids who want to come back and reducing their time at school. Either way you look at it, there is going to be a subtractive effort. Right now, it’s an additive effort.”

At the time of the meeting, Lawson said there were 30 students on the waitlist who would like to return for in-person learning.

According to Hendrix, the waiver would put the special education students into their own cohort and take them out of the 50 percent of students allowed back.

With the special education students in their own cohort, Lawson said it would allow for the students on the waitlist to return.

Having those two cohorts allowed Sarracino to be within the 50 percent guidelines and would not require having to split the rest of the student body into cohorts.

“We’ve planned for the model that I have described since September,” Lawson said during the board meeting. “If you are asking us to chose to move into a cohort model, that is putting us in the same position that the high school is in and we will not be ready for Monday. We can absolutely adjust, but given our numbers where they are right now, and including the waitlist, we are within PED guidelines.”

The board allowed Sarracino to return to a full-day schedule for the students as long as the board can have meetings to determine if a new plan needs to be put in place if more students want to come back.

The board discussed moving Sarracino to a cohort schedule in the future to accommodate students who decide they want to return to in-person learning.

“We are well poised to accept any kid who can come in,” Lawson said during the board meeting.

Discussing the reopening plan for Socorro High School was also a discussion item but was tabled to allow for the high school more time to plan for in-person learning.

There was a special meeting on Feb. 10 to determine the plans for the high school, which was after El Defensor Chieftain was published.