Rio Rancho school board reviews hybrid learning plans

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Rio Rancho school board met Monday to discuss a hybrid learning plan for middle and high school students.

Four plans were presented to the board, but only two of them were recommended.

The first plan was a phased-in hybrid approach with A-B schedules. The schedules would include two in-person learning days per week, which would be half days.

Sixth grade students and high school seniors would go back first starting Feb. 22. The starting dates for other students will be determined after successfully implementing those phases.

The second recommended option was to stay virtual.

“We just want to be sure that everyone understands. It’s not going to look like school before the pandemic where you walk in and all the kids are there and the teacher’s at the front and most of the lesson is direct instruction back and forth,” said RRPS Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland. “It’s not necessarily going to have that same type of delivery of instruction because that teacher is having to plan both in-class teaching and learning and working with the students at home at the same time.”

If the district goes with a hybrid option, it will have to face challenges—primarily with staffing. The district is already borrowing staff from middle and high schools to help out with elementary school hybrid learning.

According to a district survey, 49% of secondary teachers said they would prefer to stay virtual through the semester, and 33% said they wanted to stay virtual until they receive the vaccine. Only 16% of teachers said they were willing to return to school right now.

The school board also heard from state teacher unions. District officials said they’re working with the governor and the Public Education Department to accomplish a few things like vaccinating teachers.

"My concern is winning the lottery, so to speak, in terms of getting a vaccine,” Dr. Cleveland said. “I don’t think that is going to deliver getting our teachers vaccinated in New Mexico. It’s not going to happen even by fall, and so I’m hoping we have another approach."

Despite the challenges, Rio Rancho school officials said they can get everything done before Feb. 22. They’re still finalizing some things like traffic patterns for cafeterias and gyms. Some classrooms also still need to be set up.

As for extracurricular activities, the PED said schools have to return to a full hybrid model for students to be able to participate in them. However, teachers unions and school districts are asking the PED to change that rule.