On Tuesday, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivered her “virtual” State of the State address, in which she announced in-person learning would resume at New Mexico schools. She said, “every school district in the state will be able to welcome all ages of students safely back to the classroom on February 8.”
The move comes after New Mexico ranked as the state with the highest suicide rate in the United States, with the rate for children ages 4-15 increasing by 88%. To deal with this, the Governor claimed her proposed budget has an 800% increase for suicide prevention.
During the speech, Gov. Lujan Grisham touted her “solid, epidemiologically-sound plan for a safe expansion of in-person learning for all age groups, supported by union leadership.” The Public Education Department outlined the three options school districts have, per the Albuquerque Journal:
All schools throughout the state may bring back students on a hybrid model in which 50% of students return at a time to maintain social distancing.
Districts and schools with fewer than 100 students can bring back all students as long as no more than six people are in an enclosed space at one time.
Schools and districts that aren’t ready for the full hybrid return can expand small-group instruction to all grades.
However, liberal teachers unions and leftist public officials cried about the decision, with Albuquerque American Federation of Teachers president Ellen Bernstein complaining that “The teachers still need to get vaccinated. They still need COVID leave.”
National Education Association of New Mexico (NEA-NM) reportedly lauded the Governor’s decision, claiming she “has done just about everything that a governor can do to keep citizens in this state safe. She has shut things down. She has required people to wear masks. She has fined people for not doing so,” but they want teachers to be the “priority in the vaccination rollout.”
Far-left state Rep. G. Andrés Romero, a teacher at Atrisco High School in Albuquerque, said he “worried that switching from remote learning to a hybrid model could be an added stress on teachers and students who already strained. He urged caution to districts considering the option,” according to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
Albuquerque Public Schools Interim Superintendent Scott Elder said of the Governor’s decision that “There’s a lot of excitement and truthfully some trepidation over the governor’s announcement today,” but he would work with state officials on a safe re-opening plan.
The move by the Governor comes after months of pressure from Republicans across New Mexico, who have urged her repeatedly to reopen the state, such as the Republican Party of New Mexico, who urged the Governor to take after Las Vegas’ example:
Following the Governor’s address, New Mexico House Republican Whip Rod Montoya (R-Farmington) released a statement, saying, “I am glad that the Governor’s interpretation of the science is finally lining up with our neighbor states when it comes to reopening our schools. It is unfortunate that our school children have had to sacrifice a year of education under this Governor’s extreme executive orders. I fear that the Governor’s effect on our failing economy will be just as long-lasting as her effect on our student’s academic regression.”
“It is about time that the Governor is finally viewing this crisis through the lens of medical science and not political science,” added House Republican Leader Jim Townsend (R-Artesia), who has been critical of the Governor’s COVID-19 response throughout the pandemic.