Students at Socorro High School who arrive via the bus enter the school through the cafeteria due to having their temperature checked before getting on the bus.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

On Monday, the New Mexico Public Education Department announced that all students can return to in-person learning.

According to the PED, all schools are to be fully in-person by April 5 and those families who wish to remain in remote learning will be allowed to do so.

Each district will be in charge of when students will fully be back, which includes attending school in-person five days a week.

“That was a very pleasant surprise,” Socorro High School principal Robert Stephens said. “I think the view back in the early part of the semester was that we wouldn’t see kids in the building at all until August, at best. The way this is falling out, I’m just ecstatic. It’s an exciting moment for us because it allows the students who want to come into the building more often because now we are looking at five days a week.”

For Socorro Consolidated School District, the high school started going back every day on Wednesday to work out any issues that arise prior to going on spring break, which is from March 15–19. After coming back from break, the elementary schools and Sarracino Middle School will return to being in-person five days a week starting on March 22.

As of Feb. 8, secondary schools were allowed to go back at a 50 percent capacity. To accommodate the capacity limits, Socorro High elected to do a cohort schedule where the A cohort attends in-person on Mondays and Tuesdays with the B cohort on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Checking for 98.6 degrees.
Caitie Ihrig | El Defensor Chieftain

The cohorts alternated every other Friday.

Due to working the cohort schedule where students attend their online classes while the other cohort attended in-person, Stephens said the class schedule will not have to be changed.

“We have enough desks in the classrooms to accommodate for both cohorts coming in and there is plenty of seating in the cafeteria,” he said. “Our transportation system is ready to go from what I can gather… I think it is going to be fine.”

Stephens said there will be roughly 200–250 students attending class in-person with the remaining 250–300 students learning remotely.

“It’s not taking anything away from the students who want to continue with remote learning,” he said. “Learning will be exactly the same. The same teacher. The same time. It’s just a matter if you are at home or school.”

Parents and guardians will be able to notify the school if they want their child(ren) attending in-person, but Stephens said that once a family makes a decision that they need to stick with that decision.

“You can’t pick one week in the building and another week not to,” Stephens said. “It would be great if the families would make a decision and then stick with that for the last part of the year. We only have one grading period left. After the 12th, that is the end of the third quarter.

Following spring break is the fourth quarter. It would be nice to finish this way.”
Besides students being ready to come back, Stephens said the teachers are excited to see their students in the building everyday.

“There are a number of teachers here at Socorro High who are patiently waiting to see their students who are in the building five days a week,” he said. “We all know that is going to provide that much more education for these kids.”

To help keep the teachers and staff safe, the PED said that all staff members who want the COVID-19 vaccine will receive their first shot by the end of March.

The first week of the vaccine rollout will include teachers and staff who are registered and are located outside of the Albuquerque metro area while the second week will focus on those in the Albuquerque area.

The third week focuses on those who register to receive the vaccine during the next two weeks.

Besides all students being allowed to return, the PED announced that all NMAA sanctioned sports, activities, music, choir and extracurricular activities are allowed to begin.

There will be regulations for the activities as musicians are required to wear their mask while playing. Choir and woodwind instruments will have to practice outside due to not being able to wear a mask and can practice individually inside.

For sports, teams will no longer have to wait two weeks to participate in competitions after returning to in-person learning.