New NMPED COVID guidelines drop most requirements for masks, school testing programs

SANTA FE, N.M. – On the two-year mark of the pandemic, the New Mexico Public Education Department released updated guidelines for their COVID-19 toolkit.

The changes, effective Thursday, drop most mask requirements for students and staff – except for COVID-positive students and staff returning on days 6-10 after testing positive and self-isolating for five days.

District and charter schools can now set their own face mask policies.

"Some of the schools are making the decision not to use masks, and that’s being implemented in a very safe way, and others are continuing to use masks," said state Secretary of Education Dr. Kurt Steinhaus.

Schools are also no longer required to provide COVID testing programs for students. Instead, results from a home antigen test and a signed assurance will be allowed for testing purposes.

Two rapid antigen tests taken 24-48 hours apart may be used to rule out COVID in symptomatic individuals, as well.

Schools may also drop test-to-stay programs, enacted in November, to keep exposed but asymptomatic students and staff in school and activities as long as they remain asymptomatic and test negative multiple times.

PED stated the guidance remains that if a school drops the test-to-stay programs, a person exposed to COVID would have to stay home for five days. A COVID-positive person must still self-isolate for five days.

They’re also allowing assemblies and non-essential visitors in schools again.

"So if you’re a parent volunteer, and you’re coming on Friday to work with a math activity, you’re allowed to do that. Another change has to do with the participation in band, and I used to be a band director. And so this sounds kind of silly, but bell covers are no longer required on band instruments. So that’s fun to see."

If COVID cases spike again, PED says schools are prepared to temporarily move learning online.

"But right now, none of our schools are on remote learning, they are in person."

PED also stated:

  • Unvaccinated individuals may share sleeping areas with other unvaccinated individuals
  • COVID isolation rooms are no longer required but anyone with a contagious illness should be isolated from others
  • Non-essential visitors, assemblies and field trips are allowed

To see the updated toolkit, click here.