Gov. MLG’s PED finally announces date for in-person school reopening after yearlong lockdown

On Monday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Public Education Department (PED) finally announced a reopening plan for New Mexico schools by April 5, 2021.

During a virtual news conference, Lujan Grisham’s PED secretary Ryan Stewart said, “All schools across the state do need to be open by April 5,” however, “that gives about a month for planning.”

“Your school or district administration will determine the timeline that works well for the community… we encourage our school leaders to work with their families, educators, school staff and community members,” PED said regarding when school districts will be reopening.

According to Stewart, remote learning will remain an option for students, while PED will allow “high-risk” staff exemptions until two weeks following full vaccination or inoculation becomes available to them. All teachers are eligible for the vaccine, says Stewart. 

New Mexico’s largest school district, the Albuquerque Public Schools, “is updating its plan to get students back in the classroom, following the state Public Education Department’s announced expectation that all New Mexico public and charter schools return to in-person learning by early April,” writes the District. 

Masks will be required to be worn by students and faculty and 6-feet “social distance” is highly encouraged wherever possible, but does not appear to be mandatory. 

“It is time to ring the bell to welcome our kids back to class,” Stewart said.

“Our message to New Mexico public schools is that you can and should move as quickly as possible to get everyone who wants it back for in-person learning,” he added.

The announcement by PED comes nearly a full year after Gov. Lujan Grisham shuttered schools and thrust children and teachers into a 100% virtual format. 

In July–right in the middle of the Governor’s lockdown–New Mexico had the highest rate of suicide, with the rate for children 5-14 increasing by 88%. 

New Mexico Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce wrote in a statement following the announcement, “This is a decision that’s been long overdue. While it’s good that public school students will be back in class where they have always belonged, they and their families have had to endure real hardships for a year.”

He added, “It’s been a devastating experience, and students have fallen behind academically and socially. It will be hard to tell whether the Governor’s actions will have a long-lasting impact in our state. Now it’s time to fully reopen New Mexico and get life back to normal.”

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