A School Year Beginning Like No Other

By M. Benevento

Back in mid-July, New Mexico tapped the scientific expertise and massive computing power of Los Alamos National Laboratory to analyze four possible scenarios for re-opening schools:

(a) distance learning only

(b) a mix of distance and in-person instruction, with students physically present about half the time

(c) closing high schools but in-person learning for others

(d) full-time, in-person school for everyone, with mask requirements

The answer may need to be “all of the above,” “some of the above,” and/or “none of the above,” depending on whether COVID numbers fall or rise and how public health orders ensue.  Yet, given that no one can know what will unfold, APS does have an impressively detailed and well thought-out Re-entry Plan in place for our schools’ learners, as well as a formal understanding with teachers and others represented by the teachers’ union. (See https://www.aps.edu/news/documents/covid-19-mou for information about the APS/ATF Memo of Understanding.)

Things got on the move last week, on August 5, as Albuquerque’s teachers, educational assistants, nurses, counselors, secretaries and others returned to work (either at school or remotely) for training, planning, and preparation.

In regard to learners and their families, as well as school staff, the APS Re-entry Plan calls for students to start back to school on August 12, following protocols within a “red” phase of a “red, green, yellow” system of action:

  • Red includes distribution of technology to all students, virtual home visits, and guidance provided for staff, students, and families on safely attending school and effectively learning at home. Remote learning begins.
  • Yellow, after Labor Day (if all goes well), will bring students back to school in numbers limited by six feet of social distancing and classrooms no more than 50% full. A mix of some in-person days and some remote days is likely, with some students going to school Tuesdays-Fridays on an every-other-week rotation, starting at the elementary level.
  • Green (no date foreseen at present) will allow students to return five days a week – with masks, temperature screenings, and other preventative measures in place.

APS collaborated with many national, state and local organizations, the Governor’s Reentry Task Force, and school districts from the Council of Great City Schools to create the Re-entry Plan for our Albuquerque learners and educators. They consulted with medical professionals at UNM, and with Department of Health and School-Based Health Centers to determine ways to contain the spread of COVID-19 while meeting the needs of the community.  From detailed instructions to families, to monitoring students’ temperatures, to enhanced cleaning and sanitation procedures at school facilities, the APS website offers a wealth of information for those of us (which should be all of us!) who are concerned.  Visit https://www.aps.edu/schools/reentry-plan for important facts and details.