Updated: July 24, 2020 10:21 PM
Created: July 24, 2020 03:52 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.- New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said Friday it's the state's goal to get children back in class.
"We know our kids need to be back in school. We know that there is no substitute for strong in-person learning, and we also know that our kids have been out for a long time and everybody is ready to reengage in the process of getting them back in for that academic and social needs," he said. "The school is the hub of that."
Stewart is asking everyone to do their part to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
While New Mexicans do that, Stewart said the PED is working to figure out the best school re-entry plan.
Districts can begin offering online classes in August, but Stewart recognizes there are problems with online learning.
"We ran a survey earlier toward the beginning of the summer and it showed that about 23% of our students didn't have a device and a few more didn't have internet connectivity in the home," he said.
About $41 million was spent to help New Mexico families with accessing digital devices and the internet, according to Stewart.
"Getting the fiber and the infrastructure out, especially throughout all of our rural communities, is a tens of billions of dollars, many years commitment that we can't just turn on overnight," he said. "So again, we've been using hot spots where hot spots are effective."
Since March, the state and schools have given out about nine million meals. Making sure students have access to those meals is part of the requirement for schools moving forward.
But what if there's an outbreak within a school?
"The Department of Health will be coming in, conducting the case investigation and contact tracing," Stewart said. "We're going to identify all those individuals who may have been exposed. Make sure we can keep them isolated while we get them tested and make sure they're not presenting with the virus, and they're not presenting with symptoms and then depending on the nature of the case it may require the closure of classroom wing or the entire school, again, depending on the circumstances of the case," Stewart said.
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