COVID-19: State officials close public schools in NM for remainder of school year | KOB 4
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COVID-19: State officials close public schools in NM for remainder of school year

KOB Web Staff
Updated: March 27, 2020 05:13 PM
Created: March 27, 2020 01:29 AM

SANTA FE, N.M. — State officials announced Friday that New Mexico public schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Under the governor's previous order, schools were to remain closed until April 6. Schools will now shift to a learn-at-home model.

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“Schools will not be required to make up the missed instructional days between March 16 and April 3, but for the remaining weeks of the school year to be waived, districts must develop both technology-based and non-technology-based continuous learning plans,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

School personnel will continue to be paid and will remain on call. 

The learn-at-home plan includes these provisions:

SPECIAL NEEDS

Students with special needs will receive all feasible supports and accommodations that can be delivered while maintaining safe social-distancing. School districts must continue to support the transition of children from early intervention into preschool special education. Schools offering behavioral health services will remain open for that purpose.

HIGH SCHOOL SENIORS

Individual districts will design measures by which seniors can demonstrate eligibility for graduation. Those measures could include testing, completing a series of assignments, achieving a set score on a college entrance exam or demonstrating applied work experience. Schools will be required to identify and support students in danger of not being able to graduate.

High school seniors will have until June 19 to demonstrate eligibility, and those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer; they can also appeal to their local school board or to the secretary. No student will be denied graduation for lack of access to demonstrate competency.

Actual graduation ceremonies will be postponed or held virtually, depending on the prevailing public health order at the time.

Many high school seniors will have completed a college entrance exam already; additionally, many higher education institutions are expected to waive that requirement, and both the ACT and College Board are considering offering those exams in the summer.

ADVANCED PLACEMENT

Advanced placement exams will be offered online and will be limited to material students should have covered up to March. Accommodations will be made for those students who need access to technology to take the tests. 

SCHOOL PERSONNEL 

School personnel and contractors will remain on call and continue being paid as usual. Districts have already received guidance on activities employees can continue performing during the closure. Bus contractors are encouraged to continue operating bus routes to deliver food and hard-copy lessons. Special education and other service contractors are encouraged to provide virtual services, collaborate with general education teachers and maintain documentation.

SCHOOL NUTRITION PROGRAMS

Every New Mexico school district has a plan to continue providing childhood nutrition during this period. 

The Public Education Department is also seeking permission to distribute Electronic Benefits Transfer cards that would allow qualifying families to purchase meals with their free breakfast/lunch allotment.

CHILD ABUSE AND NEGLECT 

With schools closed, some children may be more vulnerable to abuse and neglect in their homes.  In addition, teachers, school administrators and other school staff are often the first to notice changes in behavior and appearance that may indicate abuse or neglect. New Mexicans must fill this void and be extra aware of the safety and well-being of children they know and those in their neighborhoods. Any citizen can report suspected child abuse or neglect by dialing #SAFE from their cell phone or by calling 1-855-333-SAFE from a landline. 

SUPPORTING FAMILIES

The Behavioral Health Division of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department is working with the New Mexico Human Services Department and managed care organizations to help providers and families create digital access to mental health services for children and youth. 

COLLABORATING WITH NATIONS, TRIBES AND PUEBLOS

Tribes, pueblos and nations are located in some of the most rural parts of New Mexico and often experience extreme health care provider shortages. The governor and state agencies are collaborating with tribal leaders to support their needs in these times. 

These state agencies will continue working with the tribes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Education to support students who attend BIE and tribally run schools: Indian Affairs Department, Public Education Department, Children, Youth and Families Department and Early Childhood Education and Care Department.

SCHOOL CLOSURE FAQ

The Public Education Department has provided answers to some of your most frequently asked questions. To read them, click here

More than 100 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state. 

The Department of Health reports that there is community spread. To prevent further spread, the governor issued stay-at-home instructions.

New Mexicans who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough, or shortness of breath, should call their health care provider or call the NMDOH hotline at 855-600-3453.


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