Public, private and charter schools prepare for new public health orders

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A new public health order requires staff at all public, private and charter schools to be fully vaccinated or take a weekly COVID test.

Everyone is also required to wear masks indoors.

School leaders said they’re on board with anything that can make classrooms safer.

"So the big shift will be all unvaccinated staff or staff who have not informed us of their vaccination status will have to test weekly," said Kristine Meurer, executive director of the Student Family and Community Supports Division at Albuquerque Public Schools.

Meurer said about three-quarters of APS staff are fully vaccinated. Of the 12,700 employees, about 4,000 aren’t vaccinated or haven’t responded.

"I expected that we would have some updates coming because the numbers just across the country are starting to surge as well as in New Mexico and obviously in Albuquerque, so seeing an update is not surprising,” said Meurer.

Neighboring Rio Rancho Public Schools outlined the changes for families in a newsletter Tuesday.

The district did cancel all upcoming dances this fall, including homecoming, along with field trips and large indoor gatherings.

Instead of testing 25% of unvaccinated staff per week, it will test 100%, and APS is doing the same.

"The more that we can do things to mitigate the spread of the virus, obviously the safer it’s going to be in our schools in terms of the pandemic." Meurer said.

This is the first round of statewide mandates that includes private schools.

Leaders at Bosque School in northwest Albuquerque are more than ready to fall in line.

"I’m thrilled that this mandate has been put in place. I think it’s the right thing to do in support of all of our ability to keep students on campus and in person," said Dr. Jessie Barrie, head of Bosque School.

Barrie says the new mandates aren’t too concerning for her staff – since all of the teachers there are already fully vaccinated.

"Our hope is to continue to do that and to be able to do everything we can to contribute to the public health efforts statewide, which I think are gonna be significantly enhanced by this new mandate,” said Barrie.

These school policy changes go into effect this coming Monday.