Every one of us has been faced with a difficult decision at some point in our lives. I don’t know about you, but often the time period leading up to a decision is more difficult than the decision itself. Especially when there is no ‘right’ answer. Once I make a decision and accept the outcome, there is a sigh of relief because the process of getting there was so difficult. This is where we currently find ourselves as district leaders, and it is even more difficult because it affects our children and our community.
When the governor announced that all students would be able to return to school starting on Feb. 8, and that sports could commence starting on Feb. 22, school leaders across the state were shocked. Initially, there was excitement, but once it was clear what the requirements were, it was daunting. We immediately started planning a phased-in return to school.
On Tuesday, Feb. 2, I presented this plan, but it was clear that providing vaccinations for all staff who wanted one was going to be an insurmountable obstacle. However, I am thankful the school board authorized the administration to expand in-person learning for some students. With that guidance, we went back to the drawing board and we will share these plans with the community and the school board on February 16.
As district leaders, part of the work is understanding that there are going to be people who are upset regardless of the decisions we make, but please understand that many of the decisions we make locally are driven by requirements set in Santa Fe. My continued commitment is to be transparent with parents, staff and students.
I realize there are two primary questions everyone has on their mind and I will do my best to answer them.
- Will the athletes get to participate in sports this semester?
- Will my child get to return to school face-to-face this semester?
Will the athletes get to participate in sports this semester?
I wish I could provide a definitive answer to this question today. As it stands right now, Las Cruces area high schools are not eligible to participate in NMAA sports under the current requirements outlined by the NMPED. They have stated that in order for a school to participate in NMAA sports, the high school must be in a strict hybrid instruction model. Using their definition, Las Cruces Public Schools, along with Albuquerque and other large districts across the state, are unable to meet those requirements. Leaders in many districts — including myself — continue to advocate for local control, and a separation of the hybrid instruction requirement and NMAA participation. Hopefully, we will get an answer from the state in the next few days. Either way, we must provide our student-athletes with definitive answers because having an answer, even if it is not the one we want, is better than not knowing.
Will my child get to return to school face-to-face this semester?
With the directive from the school board, we will be expanding in-person opportunities for some students beginning Feb. 22 at high schools, and hopefully by March 1 at elementary and middle schools. However, it is important to realize this will not mean that every child who wants to return to in-person learning will be able to do so on these dates. As more school staff receive vaccinations and the health conditions in our county improve, we will be able to provide in-person opportunities for more children as the semester progresses. We have been asked to start slow, and that is what we will do. Please be patient.
I realize that these are not necessarily the answers any of us want. We are doing our best to navigate this very difficult situation under the constraints we have been given by the state. As a community, we need to continue to follow all COVID-safe practices because if we get to yellow or green, we can hopefully get more students in schools and our athletes on the field.
Karen Trujillo is the superintendent at Las Cruces Public Schools.
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