Kai Porter, Jonathan Fjeld
Updated: January 14, 2022 06:02 PM
Created: January 14, 2022 02:03 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico's largest private school has agreed to pay a $5,000 civil fine for violating the state's public health order.
Albuquerque's Hope Christian School was not enforcing the mask mandate on campus last year, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department.
The NMPED said it obtained an email sent by the elementary school principal in August saying the school would not require masks. Someone also sent the state five pictures taken in August that show people not wearing masks on campus.
"Of course, since the Public Education Department does not have jurisdiction over private schools, we refer any complaints or questions that come in about those matters to our partners at the Department of Health," said Katie Avery, the NMPED's director of strategic outreach.
Avery said the school's violations were reported through the state's anonymous safety concern website.
"We really wanted to ensure that there was a system in place for staff members or family members to report any non-compliance with COVID-safe practices," Avery said. "This was established really early on, really at the outset of the pandemic, when we first initiated that list of protocols that we expected schools to adhere to in order to maintain in-person learning."
The state first notified Hope Christian School about the violation in September. NMPED said the school sent a letter Wednesday, saying it was dropping its request for an evidentiary hearing on the matter.
According to the NMPED, the schools' letter provided this reason:
"Although the school does not agree that the Notice of Contemplated Action … is warranted, the School has made an economic decision to cease its dispute and conclude this matter."
The state's public health order requires private schools to adhere to the same COVID precautions required by NMPED for public schools. NMPED has required face coverings since July 26.
The NMPED said this is the first time a school has been fined for failing to follow COVID protocols.
Hope Christian School has around 1,400 students enrolled, pre-K through 12th grade. KOB 4 reached out to Hope Christian School for comment, but no response yet.
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