On Monday, the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED) unveiled new guidelines for schools, which are set to start again in the next few weeks. According to the NMPED, masking will still be required in most schools.
“Teachers and staff in junior and high school settings will not be required to wear masks if they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Proof of vaccination will be required,” KVIA reports.
KVIA also adds that “Masks will still be required for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in elementary schools. Masks will also be required for anyone that is not vaccinated or refuses to show proof of vaccination in those secondary school settings,” according to the updated NMPED rules.
Students who refuse to wear masks will be sent home. “While waiting for pickup, such students will be supervised and quarantined from other students,” the report notes.
“Our priority is to keep children in school, and it’s great news that the CDC guidance shows that secondary students and staff who are vaccinated can safely attend school without masks,” said PED Secretary Ryan Stewart.
The teacher’s unions responded to the punitive school mask mandates with glee. American Federation of Teachers New Mexico president Whitney Holland said, “Today’s release of updated New Mexico Public Education Department guidelines for COVID-19 safety protocols correctly keeps a focus on proven strategies for combating the spread of coronavirus in our places of learning.”
“We appreciate Secretary Dr. Ryan Stewart and the NM PED team including educational stakeholders in this process and the development of today’s updated guidelines. These protocols correctly acknowledge this virus is still present in our communities and will continue to be present until all able New Mexicans have access to an approved vaccine. These guidelines are especially important for our youngest learners as they wait for an age-appropriate vaccine to be widely available,” Holland concluded.
Despite the unions being happy with the new guidelines, the NMPED is treating unvaccinated individuals with punitive measures, such as, “Unvaccinated students should sit on only one side of a table and maintain the prescribed social distance.”
Also, “[s]chools must maintain a voluntary student surveillance testing program with a new weekly goal of testing 25% of unvaccinated students participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities. The previous goal was 1% of the overall student population and 10% of students participating in sports and other extracurricular activities.”
The testing levels have also increased for teachers, aides, custodians, and other administrators, with a mandatory 25% weekly testing requirement for unvaccinated staff members. Previously, only schools in red counties had to test at such a high level.
New Mexico is one of only seven states (CA, CT, DE, HI, NM, NY, WA) with mask requirements for students. All of New Mexico’s neighboring states are without these stringent reqirements.
New Mexicans will be protesting the Governor’s strict masking mandate Saturday, July 31, 2021, across the state. Find your protest location here.