Rio Rancho school district surprised at governor's announcement to resume in-person learning | KOB 4

Rio Rancho school district surprised at governor's announcement to resume in-person learning

Brittany Costello
Updated: January 26, 2021 10:37 PM
Created: January 26, 2021 10:13 PM

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The governor's announcement to reopen schools for in-person hybrid learning surprised many school districts, even to ones already participating in the hybrid learning model.

Rio Rancho Public Schools has been leading the effort in getting students back to the classroom, however there is definitely some frustration with this seemingly out-of-the-blue announcement.

Recently, Rio Rancho was planning to hold a vaccination drive last week, but it was canceled at the last minute by the State Department of Health.

Now districts are being asked to bring back even more teachers and more students before everyone gets their added layer of protection.

Billie Helean is the president of Rio Rancho School Employees Union, and a first-grade teacher at Stapleton Elementary School. After the clinic was canceled last week, they surveyed the bargaining unit.

"They asked with all the current safety protocols in place, do teachers and staff feel safe returning to the classroom without a vaccine?" Helean said. "68 percent of respondents said they were not comfortable being in the classroom without a vaccine."

Of the 1,700 member bargaining unit, 1,200 teachers and staff responded. Helean said in-person learning is the best way to teach children—but at what cost?

“When we found out that the vaccine clinic was being canceled, that was the rug being pulled out from underneath the teachers and staff with Rio Rancho schools and then to find out that on top of that we're sending middle school and high school educators back, in a hybrid model granted, but sending them back in the classroom on top of that, is yet another rug being pulled out underneath educators and I think folks are feeling very frustrated,” said Helean.

KOB 4 obtained an email sent out to school staff Tuesday from Superintendent Sue Cleveland that said in part, “While we know that this is long-awaited news, we want you to know that we are still awaiting further details and revised reentry guidelines from the New Mexico Public Education Department. Once we receive the new guidelines, we will need to evaluate them to ensure we are able to meet all requirements to safely bring our secondary students back in the hybrid model.”

Just because schools have the option to reopen Feb. 8 doesn't mean they all will. However, the idea that schools can reopen is exciting for some students.

KOB 4 spoke with Revee Montoya, a freshman at Cleveland High School, after the news broke Tuesday. 

For most teens, entering high school is an exciting experience—one that Montoya has had to miss out on due to COVID.

“I think that's kind of awesome because it will be way better,” said Revee Montoya. “Way easier to keep up with my grades and yeah, I think it's a good thing. I think it’s exciting."

Montoya said she has some concerns about the virus, but trusts that her fellow classmates will follow the rules. 

"If everyone wears their mask I think we'll be OK because we know to wash our hands,” said Montoya.

Montoya anxiously awaits the district's decision to see how she will get to finish out her freshman year at her new high school.
 


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