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News Releases 2021-04-16T15:53:51-06:00

Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

April 13, 2021

3 NM schools close voluntarily due to COVID-19

Neither reached the threshold for mandatory closing for 14 days

SANTA FE – Three New Mexico public schools will return temporarily to remote-only instruction in an abundance of caution based on a handful of COVID-19 cases among students, the Public Education Department announced today.

The schools are:

  • Mesa Alta Junior High in Bloomfield
  • Central Primary in Bloomfield
  • Socorro High School

All three schools will return to remote-only instruction Wednesday and reopen on April 26.

Bloomfield Superintendent Kimberly Mizzell made the decision to close Mesa Alta because there were enough potential exposures among staff members who chose not to be vaccinated that Mesa Alta could no longer support in-person learning. The decision to close Central Primary was due to the fact that a majority of the students at the school would have had to quarantine as close contacts to two positive cases.

“They were in the lunch line. They were at recess. They were in the pickup line. The potential exposure was very widespread,” Mizzell said. “We were going to have to quarantine 223 elementary students.”

In Socorro, Superintendent Ron Hendrix decided to close the high school because seven students have tested positive since Thursday.

“Hopefully this will shut [potential virus transmission] down,” Hendrix said.

Socorro Consolidated Schools will hold a COVID-19 testing clinic Thursday at Sarracino Middle School for any student in the district who wants to be tested.

“We are not out of the woods when it comes to this virus, and we will not hesitate to move a building to remote learning if safety conditions warrant such actions,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “I thank the school staff and district leaders for taking these cases seriously and making the necessary and tough decisions to ensure that schools do not spread the disease and that students and staff are kept safe.”

None of the schools reached the state threshold to trigger a mandatory closing. That threshold is four Rapid Responses in 14 days. A Rapid Response is one or more cases reported in a single day of a person being infectious while on campus, along with any positive cases with a testing day up to one day after the reported cases.

Mesa Alta has reported no Rapid Responses since Jan. 26, and Central Primary has reported none since Jan. 29, when it had two. Socorro High has had two recent Rapid Responses — a single case on April 8 and two cases on April 9.

As a proactive measure to identify asymptomatic cases and keep close track of student infection trends, the PED has asked every district and state charter school to develop and implement a voluntary student testing program no later than April 26.

The goal is to provide families with opportunities to get students tested. Additionally, student testing could uncover asymptomatic cases in the school community and provide additional information about the prevalence of COVID-19 to help stop the spread.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

April 12, 2021

Eldorado High to close for 14 days after 4 Rapid Responses

Closure is precautionary to prevent spread of COVID-19

SANTA FE – Eldorado High School in Albuquerque will return to remote-only instruction for two weeks after reaching the state’s conservative threshold for COVID-19 spread, the Public Education Department announced today.

The school, which serves about 1,800 students on Albuquerque’s east side, is the first public school in New Mexico to have four Rapid Responses in 14 days, the threshold that triggers a temporary return to remote-only instruction.

Eldorado High had Rapid Responses on March 29, April 2, April 6 and April 10.

Albuquerque Public Schools Superintendent Scott Elder and Eldorado High Principal Martin Sandoval were notified by email that the school has seven calendar days in which to begin the mandatory 14-day closure. Sandoval said the school will close beginning Tuesday.

A Rapid Response is a series of interventions designed to prevent COVID-19 spread, beginning when the New Mexico Department of Health notifies a school that an employee or student has a confirmed positive case and was on campus/in the facility during the infectious period.

A school or business with two Rapid Responses in 14 days goes on the Environment Department’s Rapid Response Watchlist. Those that reach four Rapid Responses in the same time frame go on the department’s Closure List.

Only the individual school that reaches the four-in-14 threshold is required to return to remote learning. Other schools in the district are not impacted.

The school is required to cease in-person student services, with the exception of small groups, adhering to the 5:1 ratio in the Public Education Department’s re-entry guidance.

The school was also advised to identify and notify all close contacts immediately to identify any related cases and stop the virus from spreading further.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

April 12, 2021

Students to be offered surveillance testing for COVID

Goal to test 1% of students per week on voluntary basis

SANTA FE – New Mexico public school students will be offered school-based COVID-19 testing opportunities as a further tool to enhance safety amid the continuing pandemic, the Public Education Department announced today.

Student testing will be completely voluntary and at no cost to those who participate. Districts and charter schools will implement student testing programs as soon as possible but no later than the week of April 26.

Students who show proof of being fully vaccinated and students who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days will not be asked to participate.

Testing identifies cases in the school that might otherwise go undetected, allowing the virus to spread further among students and staff. High rates of negative test results inspire confidence that protective measures are working, especially in high-risk activities like sports.

“This is a voluntary student surveillance testing program — it’s a service we’re putting out to the community. This will help build public confidence that schools are safe,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “By testing student volunteers, we can get better information about what’s happening in schools with the virus and get communication out into the community about how our precautionary measures are working.”

The goal is for schools to test 1% of students in the general pool weekly and 10% of individuals participating in sports and activities.

“We still have significant transmission in many of our communities, and we are not past the risk of another surge in disease that results in significant risk to life and health. Testing is one of the tools we have to minimize the risk of this happening,” said Dr. Daniel Sosin, an epidemiologist at the state Department of Health.

Schools are already required to conduct surveillance testing of unvaccinated staff members at rates determined by each county’s color on the Department of Health heat map. Turquoise counties must test 5% of eligible staff per week; green and yellow counties must test 12.5%; and red counties must test 25%.

To facilitate staff and voluntary student testing, the Public Education Department and the Department of Health are offering schools a range of testing options at no cost. The options include BinaxNOW antigen tests, the statewide VAULT mail-in testing program, and on-site tests administered through Curative.

BinaxNOW Testing

BinaxNOW testing is an option, not a requirement, to help schools with a range of testing situations. For example, BinaxNOW can be used for individuals with chronic conditions such as asthma or allergies that present with mild COVID-19 like symptoms; individuals with negative test results may return to class without a doctor’s diagnosis. It also could be used for weekly testing of students with disabilities who cannot wear a mask as a way for them to stay in school.

Rather than testing for antibodies, antigen tests determine if a patient currently has COVID-19 virus. BinaxNOW is a nasal swab, but the swab does not need to be inserted beyond the front part of the nose, and results are available in just a few minutes.

Schools received an order form Thursday for BinaxNOW tests, and the test kits will begin arriving next week. Online training will begin Monday. Any trained individual can administer the BinaxNOW test, so testing does not require schools to have a health office.

VAULT Testing

Families will have the option to order VAULT test kits, now used in staff testing, for student testing. Those tests — available at no cost from the statewide VAULT testing program, can be completed at home with results provided — voluntarily — to the school.

Curative Testing

The Department of Health can give schools access to the Curative Testing Co., which can come onsite to collect a minimum of 20 specimens for COVID-19 testing. Curative also may be able to train staff to collect the specimens themselves.

Student testing programs are voluntary, opt-in services. No student is required to be tested. Consent from parents will be required for minor children or from students for students who have reached the age of majority.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 23, 2021

Session ends with significant gains for public education

Winning investments include Family Income Index, community schools

SANTA FE — Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s education moonshot got a $400 million boost during the just-concluded legislative session, including more than $200 million that will go directly to school districts and charter schools and $215 million to fund various innovative, evidence-based initiatives.

“In 2019, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham promised a moonshot to create the nation’s best cradle-to-career education system. The New Mexico Legislature has provided much-needed fuel as we continue on that historic trajectory,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

K-12 education highlights from the just-concluded legislative session include:

  • The Family Income Index, funded with $30 million over the next two years, would target money toward schools serving the most economically disadvantaged students for evidence based interventions.
  • The community schools program would expand with a $5 million appropriation for FY22 and an additional $20 million to be used in future years.
  • In support of the governor’s ongoing priority of improving education for Native American students, the legislature appropriated $10.6 million for tribal education departments, tribal libraries and tribally based Native American language programs.
  • New Mexico will end a longstanding and controversial practice of reducing state funding based on Impact Aid to districts, including those with high proportions of Native American students.
  • Voters will decide on a constitutional amendment to tap the Land Grant Permanent Fund to provide reliable funding for early childhood and K-12 education.

The budget also includes $45 million to restore funding that was reduced during the 2020 first special session.

Family Income Index

The Legislature approved Senate Bill 17, creating an innovative tool to pinpoint schools serving large low-income populations in order to direct additional funding to them. The Public Education Department first proposed the Family Income Index in November, and it became one of the governor’s priority bills. The bill received a $30 million, two-year appropriation to support math and reading interventions and other student-support strategies.

Community School Strategy

The Legislature signified its support for the community school strategy with a $5 million appropriation for FY22 and $20 million more after that. Currently, the state funds 33 community schools. The new funding will allow more New Mexico schools to adopt this strategy, which involves schools partnering with the local community to provide high-quality resources and other supports to help mitigate barriers to school success.

Impact Aid

House Bill 6 gives districts with federally impacted land access to more than $60 million to better serve their students. It also requires transparency and accountability for the use of discretionary funds. A $35 million appropriation from the general fund added to a $31 million appropriation from the special session holds districts harmless from the impact of this change in policy.

This measure ends the longstanding practice of reducing state funding by an amount equal to 75% of federal funding received by school districts for impact aid — including many districts serving high proportions of Native American students. The governor identified it as a priority bill and part of her administration’s response to the Martinez and Yazzie Consolidated Lawsuit.

Permanent Funding

Voters will decide in November whether the state’s Land Grant Permanent Fund should be tapped annually to access more than $100 million for use in K-12 and early childhood education. The Legislature adopted House Joint Resolution 1, sending the proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot.

“This is an opportunity to impact generations of New Mexico students,” Secretary Stewart said. “Assuming voters agree, New Mexico’s children would be protected from the boom-bust cycles of state revenues with a reliable and fixed source of annual revenue. This would mitigate concerns that sound, evidence-based programs that work one year would be curtailed the next because of budget shortfalls.”

Culturally Sensitive, Inclusive Education

  • The Public Education Department would hire a new liaison to oversee the educational needs of Black children under House Bill 43, the Black Education Act. Provisions of the act would be carried out over the next few years.
  • The Special Education Ombud Act, House Bill 222, provides resources to help families better advocate for the needs of students with disabilities.
  • Students could not be penalized for wearing traditional hairstyles like dreadlocks or braids or religious coverings under House Bill 29/Senate Bill 80.
  • The governor has already signed into law House Bill 52, which codifies in statute the Bilingual Multicultural Education Advisory council.

Educator Workforce

  • Gov. Lujan Grisham has signed House Bill 22, amending the Grow Your Own Teachers Act to expand who qualifies for the scholarship program, which is designed to increase the number of teachers in the state.
  • House Bill 188 would require the Public Education Department to create a license endorsement in secondary computer science. All licensed teachers could qualify by demonstrating sufficient content knowledge.
  • Scholarships totaling $5 million would be available for educators who want to apply for National Board Certification. The funding is included in the General Appropriations Act, House Bill 2.
  • The General Appropriations Act also includes:
    • $1 million for teacher residencies
    • $1 million for New Mexico’s new educator evaluation program, Elevate NM
    • $1 million for mobile panic buttons for classroom teachers

More School Time

Senate Bill 40 gives districts and charter schools more flexibility in implementing the K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time programs. The measure was amended to remove a requirement that all districts adopt the programs. Additionally, House Bill 2, the General Appropriations Bill, includes a $70 million non-recurring appropriation for a pilot project on extended learning using equivalent hours.

“Increasing the time students spend learning is a proven strategy to improve academic outcomes. Although the Legislature decided against making these two programs mandatory, we appreciate the new flexibilities afforded by SB40 and the pilot project outlined in HB2,” Stewart said. “Because of these important changes, we fully expect many more districts and schools to adapt an extended school year program in the coming year as a powerful tool to accelerate learning as students return to full in-person learning.”

By-the-Numbers

$220 million: Increase in funding for the State Equalization Guarantee, the formula used to distribute funds to districts and charter schools. Includes:

  • $45 million to remove a credit the state was taking for funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act
  • $35 million to hold districts harmless from impact aid credits
  • $80 million for the K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time programs
  • $5 million for instructional materials

$135 million: One-time expenditures for priorities of the governor, including:

  • $25 million for community schools
  • $30 million for the Family Income Index over two years
  • $1.5 million for cyber security
  • $20.9 million for Impact Aid liability to the state support reserve fund
  • $15.5 million for state support reserve fund to increase aggressive approach to unit value
  • $2 million for data systems upgrades
  • $25 million for statewide digital access and broadband initiatives
  • $10.6 million for Tribal Remedy Framework
  • $3 million for Career Technical Education

$79 million: One-time expenditures for priorities of the Legislature, including:

  • $70 million for extended learning and equivalent hours pilot
  • $5 million for National Board scholarships for teachers
  • $1 million for teacher residencies
  • $1 million for educator evaluation
  • $1 million for mobile panic buttons
  • $400,000 for Black Education Act
  • $500,000 to supplement STEM programs

Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 20, 2021

Family Income Index legislation receives final approval

Bill to direct $30 million to low-income students

SANTA FE — The New Mexico House of Representatives gave final legislative approval late Friday to a measure establishing the Family Income Index, an innovative strategy to direct additional funding to schools with concentrated poverty.

Following the 52-18 vote in the full House, the measure goes to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham to be signed. It was one of her priority bills. The measure passed the Senate 35-6 on March 13.

“The Family Income Index addresses inequities in our educational system by directing additional funds to schools in economically disadvantaged communities,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “Schools with many economically disadvantaged families have students who are less likely than their peers to score well on tests, earn high grades, graduate from high school and succeed in college. This innovative new tool will level the playing field for so many students who deserve the opportunity to succeed.”

The New Mexico Public Education Department first proposed a Family Income Index in December as a partnership with the Taxation and Revenue and Human Services departments. Sen. Mimi Stewart of Albuquerque championed the idea and introduced it as Senate Bill 17. Reps. G. Andres Romero and Patricia Lundstrom marshaled the bill through the House.

Research has shown that concentrated poverty complicates teaching and learning and creates and sustains disparities in academic outcomes.

“The need is great, and resources are limited. That’s why it’s critical to target extra funding to the schools where it is most needed. We are grateful to Senator Stewart, Representative Romero, and to the full Legislature for passing the Family Income Index,” the education secretary said.

The bill would allow the Public Education Department to use data from the other two agencies and census data to identify the household income of every New Mexico public school student.

The agency then would calculate for every school the percentage of students in five income categories ranging from above average to extremely low, resulting in a ranked list of schools with the highest populations of low-income students. Per the legislation, “very low income” means a household income greater than 75% but less than 130% of the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that equals a maximum income of about $34,000 per year.

For fiscal year 2022, which begins July 1, the Family Income Index for each public school would be the sum of the percentages of the school’s students in the extremely low and very low income categories during the preceding fiscal year. After that, two- and then three-year averages would be used.

The Legislature appropriated $15 million for the Family Income Index for each of the next two years, and that amount will be divided among eligible schools.

The funding is to be used for reading and math interventions as well as other student supports such as hiring school counselors and social workers; creating family information and resource centers; adopting culturally and linguistically diverse classroom texts; offering innovative professional learning opportunities for educators and after-school enrichment programs.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 20, 2021

Legislation ending impact aid credit wins final approval

Bill is part of administration’s equity-in-education proposals

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Senate gave final approval late Friday to legislation ending credits for impact aid payments in the public school funding formula, giving school districts with federally impacted land access to more than $60 million to better serve their students.

A recurring $67 million appropriation from the general fund ensures all districts are held harmless from the impacts of this change.

This measure ends the longstanding practice of reducing state funding by an amount equal to 75% of federal funding received by school districts for impact aid — including many districts serving high proportions of Native American students.

The vote was 40-1 for House Bill 6, which was one of Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s priority bills. It now awaits her signature. The House passed the bill 67-1 on March 1.

Impact aid is intended to offset property tax losses from tax-exempt federal and tribal lands within the districts’ boundaries. In New Mexico, property taxes are used to fund school capital projects — new buildings and building improvements.

“Ending the impact aid credit has been a decades-long challenge, and today’s passage of HB6 marks a historic milestone. This bill removes a systemic inequity in the way we fund New Mexico public schools that has resulted in huge disparities between have and have-not districts,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “It will ensure that every penny provided to offset the cost of federal installations and tribal lands goes to the students affected.”

House Bill 6 also includes important transparency measures for districts and charter schools to report how they spent the federal funding to improve student outcomes or improve the condition of a school building.

Ending the impact aid credit is one of several equity-in-education proposals the governor is backing. The governor is also backing funding for Native language programs, tribal broadband, tribal libraries and tribal education departments. These appropriations are aligned with the Tribal Remedy Framework, a broad plan created by tribal communities, families and indigenous education experts to promote academic success for Native students.

Generally, states are prohibited from considering impact aid when allocating state aid, but federal law includes an exception for states that maintain a system of school finance designed to equalize educational expenditures. New Mexico has been applying for and receiving that exception year after year since the 1970s.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 19, 2021

List of unaccounted-for students now 2,522

PED, partners down to hardest-to-reach students

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Public Education Department and its partners are searching for the final and hardest-to-reach students after months of work to determine that all New Mexico students are safe and receiving education services despite the pandemic.

As of this week, about 2,500 names remained on a list once numbering over 12,000 of students who were enrolled in public schools last spring but not this fall and were therefore feared to be outside the educational system.

A cross-agency team has been whittling the list since November by working with districts, cross-referencing databases, making phone calls and making COVID-safe home visits. In the first months of the effort, the list dropped by thousands each month, but now the going is slow.

Of the remaining unaccounted-for students, 100 are believed to be homeless, a figure calculated by comparing the unaccounted-for list to a list of students who were in a federal program for homeless students last spring.

“We’re getting close, but the last ones are the hardest to reach,” said Katarina Sandoval, the Public Education deputy secretary leading the project. “We are still doing everything we can. Ultimately, we want to ensure that every student is accounted for, but we also have to consider the fact that they’ve possibly moved outside our systems.”

The PED and its partners — the Early Childhood Education and Care Department; the Indian Affairs Department; the Office of African American Affairs; the Children, Youth and Families Department, the Human Services Department and the Graduation Alliance — have called hundreds of families since early January, talking directly to some and leaving messages for others. Those who didn’t call back received a second and sometimes third call.

In mid-February, the partners were down to about 2,700 unaccounted-for students, including some 650 for whom no recent contact information existed. A cross-check with a national database turned up contact information for about 550 of those, and outreach to those families is now under way, with almost 200 already located and accounted for so far.

Some students are turning up on their own to re-enroll as in-person learning expands across New Mexico. When students re-engage with learning, the state partners don’t always know why they left in the first place. However, an earlier analysis indicated most had enrolled in private schools (26 percent) or moved out of state (23 percent). About 15 percent were found to be enrolled in a public school, and 7 percent are being home-schooled. About 3 percent have dropped out of school altogether.

There are now fewer than 100 students on the original list for whom no contact information is available. Those names are being sent back to the 18 school districts and charter schools where they were once enrolled with instructions to keep looking.

Districts are required to report enrollment and attendance data to PED at regular intervals, beginning in late October. That data is usually not released until it is carefully verified — a weeks-long process — but because of growing public concern about disengaged students amid remote and hybrid learning models, the department broke protocol in November by announcing the unverified data suggesting more than 12,000 students were unaccounted for


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 17, 2021

New Mexico to receive $979M in federal school aid; 90% to be distributed to districts, schools

Funding to of set learning loss, improve school safety

SANTA FE — New Mexico will receive $979 million in new federal aid for education, with 90% to be allocated by the Public Education Department to individual school districts and state charter schools to help safely reopen schools and address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on students.

Of the remaining 10%, half ($48.9 million) will be earmarked for evidence-based interventions to address learning loss; 1% ($9.8 million) will be used for evidence-based summer-enrichment programs; and 1% ($9.8 million) will go toward evidence-based comprehensive after-school programs.

After those earmarks, the Public Education Department will spend the nearly $30 million remaining on previously established priorities including accelerated instruction, closing the digital divide and supporting students with disabilities and students at-risk.

The funding, which covers a 2 ½-year period, is available through the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ARP ESSER) Fund established by Congress on March 11. The legislation provides nearly $122 billion for states and schools nationwide through September 2023.

The funds will be available to states later this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday. The Public Education Department will distribute 90% of the total to school districts and state charter schools through the same process as Title 1 allocations. Districts and state charter schools should receive the funding no later than July 1.

“This new round of federal support for our schools is a critical investment and comes at an ideal time as New Mexico safely reopens all our K-12 schools,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “This funding will support the very evidence-based initiatives New Mexico has already targeted to help our schools and our students recover from the COVID-19 pandemic between now and September 2023.”

Districts and state charter schools must use 20 percent of their share of the new funds to address learning loss through evidence-based interventions that also respond to students’ social, emotional and academic needs. Those interventions also must address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on historically underserved student subgroups, including Native American students, children from low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, migrant students, students experiencing homelessness and children and youth in foster care.

What remains of district/charter school funding after that may be used for a wide range of activities to address needs rising from the pandemic, with a special emphasis on implementing public health protocols that align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This is the third round of federal pandemic aid for public schools. The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided about $130 million to New Mexico for K-12 education last spring. That was followed by the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSA), which sent $435 million to New Mexico for K-12 education after it became law in late December.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 8, 2021

All educators to be offered vaccine by end of March; schools to move rapidly to expand in-person learning

Goal: All schools in full reentry no later than April 5

SANTA FE — All New Mexico school staff members will be offered a COVID-19 vaccine before the end of March as a gateway to further expanding safe in-person learning with a goal of reaching full reentry by April 5, the Public Education Department and Department of Health announced today.

“I bring you good news today — news you’ve been waiting to hear for a year: We’re going back to school,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “The time has come to get back to the gold-standard in education, which is students and teachers together in classrooms. 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.”

Additionally, all schools may immediately begin offering New Mexico Activities Association-sponsored activities, including sports, and may resume other curricular and extracurricular activities such as band, choir and drama.

The announcement moves New Mexico public schools to the third and final stage of the Public Education Department’s COVID-19 Safe Operating Categories. All schools were in the remote category until Sept. 8; most elementary schools were eligible for the hybrid category in the fall; all schools became eligible for the hybrid category Feb. 8; and all schools are now eligible for full reentry, which means all students can return to their school buildings for in-person each school day.

COVID-Safe Practices will remain in place, including mask-wearing, frequent hand-washing, enhanced indoor air quality and social distancing to the greatest extent possible. Schools will be encouraged to use large communal spaces and outdoor spaces to maximize social distancing, especially during meal times.

Vaccinations for school staff members

Based on an increase in supply of vaccines, the state’s substantial progress in vaccinating priority groups and recent federal guidelines on vaccine priority, New Mexico is offering vaccines to every school staff member in the next three weeks. This week, vaccines will be offered to all school staff members who are registered for the vaccine and are outside the Albuquerque metro area. Next week, vaccines will be offered to all registered school staff members in the Albuquerque metro; school staff members not currently registered and who register in the interim will be offered vaccines in the week ending March 26.

“As part of New Mexico’s nation-leading vaccine distribution effort, DOH is focusing on vaccinating K-12 educators, early childhood professionals and staff. We are eager to support the safe return of educators and students to the classroom,” Department of Health Secretary Dr. Tracie Collins said.

“Our goal has always been to welcome students back to school as quickly and safely as possible. The statewide mobilization to vaccinate all school staff is a game-changer in creating increasingly safe working conditions and school environments for all,” Stewart said.

More than 45,000 New Mexicans have registered as educators to receive the vaccine, which includes those in early childhood and higher education. Of the registered educators, almost 15,000 have already received the vaccine as members of previously eligible groups — health care workers; those 75 and older, and those with certain health conditions that place them at high risk for serious outcomes should they become infected.

New Mexico currently has 50,864 K-12 school staff members — including classroom teachers, administrators, bus drivers and food handlers.

Once school staff members provide evidence of full vaccination, they will no longer be required to participate in asymptomatic surveillance testing, which is used to prevent outbreaks. Since school reentry began Sept. 8, the overall positivity rate of school staff surveillance testing is 1%, well below the state’s 5% target. The positivity rate since the expansion of in-person learning on Feb. 8 is 0.3%.

Moving quickly to full reentry

The PED and schools have been working since summer to make this return possible, with longstanding requirements for surveillance testing, case monitoring, improved air quality and evidence-based COVID Safe Practices like mask-wearing, hand-washing and social distancing. Before moving into hybrid, districts had to sign assurances that those practices would continue, and site visits by either PED officials or fire marshals were conducted to assure readiness.

With those protections in place, 52,200 of New Mexico’s 330,000 public school students are already attending in-person learning, most in the hybrid mode, which means they attend school in person two days a week and study remotely the other three days. Of the 50,000-plus people who staff public schools, 17,000 have already returned to in-person work.

PED is urging districts and schools to move quickly to get many more educators and students through school doors in the coming weeks, with an expectation that all schools will be in full reentry no later than April 5.

“While we know our communities need time to plan, we expect them to move quickly. As a state, our expectation is for all schools to be offering in-person learning for every family that wants it. You tell us your start date, but that start date should be soon,” Stewart said.

Families still may choose for their students to study remotely, and if any district has a significant portion of students making that choice, the Public Education Department will provide whatever flexibility is needed.

“We are phasing out what we’ve been calling ‘hybrid’ learning, although there will continue to be a fully remote option for those families who choose it,” Stewart said.

In no case will a student be required to return to in-person learning if doing so would violate the requirements of a sovereign tribe or nation, some of which are still in a “lockdown” environment.

Extracurricular activities and sports

Sports and other extracurricular activities may resume immediately at all schools, with explicit safety precautions in place.

For sports, precautions include no congregating during warm-ups or breaks in play; no overnight travel, and masks required for all except when eating or drinking. A complete list of sports guidelines is available on P. 23 of this document.

Choir and band will be allowed outdoors. Students may not share instruments and must follow COVID-safe practices such as the use of cloth bell covers on wind instruments. Both singers and musicians must be appropriately masked and must maintain enhanced social distancing of 9 feet when playing or singing in groups. A complete list of music guidelines is available on P. 22 of this document.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 5, 2021

New Mexico high school graduation rate up 2%

Every demographic category saw improvement

SANTA FE — New Mexico’s high school graduation rate moved 2% higher for the cohort that graduated amid the global pandemic, and improvement was evident across every demographic group, the Public Education Department announced today.

Nearly 77% of New Mexico’s high school seniors graduated in four years in spring 2020, up from 75 percent the year before. Female students had an 81% four-year graduation rate, up from 79 percent, while the rate for males was 73%, up from 71 percent.

Every demographic group showed improvement, with African American students improving by 7 percentage points and homeless students by 5. Caucasians, Native Americans and English learners each saw a 3-point gain.

The 2020 graduation rates for demographic groups include:

DemographicLast Year’s Graduation RateThis Year’s Graduation RateGAIN
African American67%74%7 points
Caucasian78%81%3 points
Hispanic74%76%2 points
Asian85%87%2 points
Native American69%72%3 points
English learners73%76%3 points
Economically disadvantaged70%72%2 points
Students with disabilities64%66%2 points
Homeless51%56%5 points
Foster care37%39%2 points

“This achievement amid an unprecedented upheaval in the education system is a true testament to the hard work of students who were determined to graduate and educators who were determined to get them across the line,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

The Public Education Department calculates the graduation rate for each “cohort” of students who enter high school the same year and are expected to graduate four years later. The cohort of 2020 entered high school in the fall of 2016 and consisted of 25,995 students who were ever enrolled for one or more semesters during those four years.

The 2019 cohort’s overall four-year graduation rate was 75 percent. When students from that cohort who graduated in May 2020 after five years in high school are added in, the rate jumps to 78.3 percent.

New Mexico’s 10 largest communities had these 2020 graduation rates:

Albuquerque Public Schools74.6
Las Cruces Public Schools86.2
Rio Rancho Public Schools88.3
Santa Fe Public Schools86.3
Roswell Independent Schools71.8
Farmington Municipal Schools77.4
Clovis Municipal Schools70.4
Hobbs Municipal Schools85.4
Alamogordo Public Schools80.5
Carlsbad Municipal Schools71.0

Download the complete data file here.


Contact:

Judy Robinson
judy.robinson@state.nm.us
505-469-5496

Dusty Young
dusty@nmact.org
505-977-5385

March 4, 2021

PED: Spectators now allowed at school sporting events

Capacity allowance varies with color of county

SANTA FE — Effective immediately, spectators will be permitted at all school-related sports to the extent allowed by the current Public Health Order under the limits applicable to large entertainment venues, New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart announced today.

This means that schools may allow spectators as follows:

Turquoise Counties:

  • Up to 75% capacity of an outdoor spectator area
  • Up to 33% capacity of an indoor spectator area

Green Counties:

  • Up to 50% capacity of an outdoor spectator area
  • Up to 25% capacity of an indoor spectator area

Yellow Counties:

  • up to 25% capacity for an outdoor spectator area

In every case, the host team’s county color governs the spectator capacity.

“It makes sense to align student athletics with what’s now permissible in the current Public Health Order,” Stewart said. “We understand the importance of sports in the lives of our students, families and communities. We encourage participation in sports by students as a healthy outlet and by parents as supportive spectators. At our core we want to keep athletes and families safe.”

“We are so excited about the opportunity to have spectators at some school sporting events,” said Sally Marquez, executive director of the New Mexico Activities Association. “We have been working hard with the Governor’s Office, the Public Education Department and the Department of Health to find a way to safely allow fans at the games. We all have something to cheer about.”


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 3, 2021

PED Secretary statement on APS’ return to in-person learning

SANTA FE — New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart issued the following statement Wednesday on Albuquerque Public Schools’ decision to expand in-person learning options for secondary students:

“Throughout the pandemic, the New Mexico Public Education Department has been open to innovative options presented by school districts that adhere to our guidance and meet our goals to assure student, staff and community safety, optimize opportunities for in-person learning, and base decisions on available data and evidence. Albuquerque Public Schools was able to work with its high schools to offer in-person learning in the hybrid mode for families who choose to opt in. We are happy the district was able to expand in-person learning — a critical step in resuming athletic and other activities. This is a strong first step in the process of getting all students back for in-person learning.”


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

March 3, 2021

Report: Community schools grantees are meeting goals

Schools are implementing strategies to meet student needs

SANTA FE — New Mexico’s 33 state-funded community schools and their partners provided expanded learning time and social and health services for 11,048 students in the last 18 months despite the global pandemic, according to a report released Tuesday by the Public Education Department.

The State of the State Brief by the department’s Community Schools and Extended Learning Bureau reports on progress in implementing the New Mexico Community Schools Act, which Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law in April 2019.

The legislation provides grants, managed by the Public Education Department, to support coordination of programs and services for students and families through community partnerships. The goal is to give students, families and communities a broader voice in school decision-making and to better leverage community resources to meet the needs of the whole child.

The pandemic hit just as grantees were beginning to launch the community school strategy at their sites.

“These schools had to quickly pivot from longer-term implementation plans to emergency responses that addressed new and immediate family and student needs, including distance learning formats,” the report notes.

“The pandemic response by our community schools was incredibly nimble,” PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “Although barely launched, they succeeded in supporting students and families with continuous remote learning and nutrition over this past year. The community school strategy holds great promise for better serving the academic, social and health needs of New Mexico children and their families.”

Every community school is unique because each reflects its own needs, assets and priorities. Nevertheless, the report notes that all 33 state-funded community schools in New Mexico have a full-time community school coordinator whose job includes integrating families and community partners into school decisions in order to create a shared vision of student and school success.

Of the 33 community schools in New Mexico, 26 are traditional public schools, four are local charters and three are state charters. The 11,048 students they serve fit these demographic profiles:

  • 88 percent are economically disadvantaged
  • 71 percent identify as Hispanic
  • 22 percent receive English learner services
  • 18 percent receive special education services
  • 10 percent identify as American Indian

Community schools are required to develop programs and services that fall within four broad evidence-based strategies: Integrated student supports; expanded and enriched learning time and opportunities; active family and community engagement, and collaborative leadership and practices.

The report highlights individual strategies schools have created to meet each goal. For example, Robert F. Kennedy Charter School in Albuquerque established a school-based health center; Los Padillas Elementary in Albuquerque added a “Genius Hour” to the end of the school day, providing time for student-driven enrichment activities; Peñasco Elementary has become a central hub of family and community information about resources and social services; and Enos Garcia Elementary in Taos established a Community School Council that identifies needs and develops strategies to meet them.

The complete report will be available on the PED website here.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Feb. 25, 2021

PED Secretary issues statement on spring assessments

SANTA FE — New Mexico Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart issued the following statement Thursday regarding spring assessments:

“The New Mexico Public Education Department has not canceled spring end-of-year assessments. We have a request before the U.S. Department of Education (attached) to waive a requirement that 95 percent of New Mexico students participate in these assessments. Instead, we have asked to test a representative sample of students, which would provide us with the information educators, families and communities need to gauge academic progress.

“We submitted our request on Feb. 17. On Monday, the USDE announced it would not waive spring assessments across the board and across the country as it had in spring 2020 but invited states to request whatever flexibility they needed to accomplish testing amid a continuing pandemic. That is what we’ve done. We have not asked to cancel testing; we’ve asked for flexible options that will work for our schools and students.

“Reporting by a few sources that our waiver was denied is simply inaccurate.”


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Feb. 25, 2021

COVID in schools: Testing up, positivity rate down

Cases on and of campus continue to decline

SANTA FE — Two weeks after New Mexico schools began expanding in-person learning, the Public Education Department reports scant evidence of school-based COVID-19 spread.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday this week, only nine school facilities were on the Environment Department’s COVID-19 Watchlist and none appeared on the department’s Closure List. By comparison, 56 school buildings (the highest number to date) appeared on the COVID-19 Watchlist on Nov. 25.

“This is great news for New Mexico schools. It shows that all the required protocols our school communities have worked so hard to put in place are, indeed, creating a safe environment for our students, educators and school staff as we expand in-person learning,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We are meeting our commitment to safety, and the credit goes to school administrators who put these protocols in place and are making sure they are followed.”

Schools are placed on the Watchlist if they have at least two Rapid Responses within a 14-day period. They are placed on the Closure List if they have at least four Rapid Responses in 14 days. A Rapid Response includes cases that are identified by testing that occurs up to a day after a school is notified of an initial COVID-19 positive individual who was infectious while on campus.

All New Mexico school districts and charter schools were permitted to expand in-person learning options beginning Feb. 8, and nearly 50 percent of public schools across the state are now offering a hybrid learning model, including 40 of the state’s 89 districts and several charter schools. According to data that was compiled on Feb. 22 from the prior week, about 42,000 students and 9,000 educators were on campus regularly for in-person learning.

New Mexico public schools have a total enrollment of about 330,000 students and total staff of about 50,000.

No public school has appeared on the closure list for having four or more Rapid Responses.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Feb. 23, 2021

NM House passes bill updating graduation requirements

HB83 provides flexible pathways for high school students

SANTA FE — The New Mexico House of Representatives has passed legislation to modernize graduation requirements by giving New Mexico high school students more pathways to a diploma while maintaining academic rigor for all.

The House voted 66-1 on Monday in favor of HB 83 by Rep. G. Andres Romero. The bill would reduce the number of credits required for graduation from 24 to 23 beginning with students entering ninth grade in the 2022-2023 school year. New Mexico is one of only 14 states that currently require 24 credits; two-thirds of states require 22 or fewer.

The measure also introduces capstone courses, which allow a student to apply and demonstrate a range of knowledge and skills in one project. All ninth- through 12th-graders could undertake a capstone course as elective credit. Beginning with high school seniors in the 2022-23 school year and for both juniors and seniors beginning in 2023-24, approved capstone courses could substitute for any core subject requirement.

The proposal would still require four units of English and math to graduate, but fewer specific courses would be mandated. Students would still have to take freshman and sophomore English and algebra 1, but after that they could choose from alternatives like journalism or statistics. Algebra 2 would no longer be required.

“This is not a one-size-fits all world, and there is no reason high school should be either,” said Rep. Romero, a history teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque. “We have students who could benefit from courses like technical writing or construction math but can’t work them into their schedules. This bill would change that.”

High school students currently select 7 ½ electives over four years; that would be cut to 6 ½ under the legislation because many electives would now fill core requirements.

“This legislation would give students the flexibility to choose a path that is right for them, whether that is the traditional path to college or something else, ” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We want to offer real and appropriate options while assuring that all our graduates complete an academic program with the rigor and cultural relevance that will prepare them for life.”

The bill proposes no change in the number of credits for science (3), social studies (3 ½) or physical education (1), although it would tweak the courses that could be required or accepted in those areas:

  • Marching band could count as a physical education credit;
  • Options like environmental engineering and wildlife management could count as a science credit;
  • Government/civics would become a one-credit required course, up from one-half;
  • New Mexico history would no longer be required as a separate course but would be covered in U.S. history.

Students would still be required to earn a credit in a career cluster or workplace readiness course or a language other than English.

If approved, the legislation would be the first overhaul of New Mexico graduation requirements since 2007, when the focus was college readiness. More recent research challenged the assumption that increasing requirements, especially in science and math, had the intended effect.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Feb. 19, 2021

List of unaccounted-for students shrinks to under 3,000

PED, partners further whittle original list of 12,186 students

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Public Education Department and its partners have accounted for 78 percent of the 12,000-plus students who were enrolled in public schools last spring but not this fall and were therefore feared to be outside the educational system.

As of this week, all but 2,716 students have been accounted for and their status documented. A cross-agency team accomplished this by working with districts, cross-referencing databases, and making phone calls.

The PED and its partners — the Early Childhood Education and Care Department; the Indian Affairs Department; the Office of African American Affairs; the Children, Youth and Families Department, the Human Services Department and the Graduation Alliance — have called hundreds of families since early January, talking directly to some and leaving messages for others. Those who didn’t call back received a second and sometimes third call.

The PED is now condensing the remaining list by siblings, and the Children, Youth & Families Department has begun making COVID-safe home visits, starting with students in grades eight to 12.

“These are wellness checks, nothing more. We want to ensure that these families have all the supports they need,” said Nick Costales, the CYFD deputy director leading that effort. “All the COVID safety protocols are in place. No one is going inside a home, and they are wearing masks.”

The agencies do not have current contact information for 653 of the remaining students on the list. Those names are being cross-checked once more with existing databases and with districts where the students were last enrolled in an effort to find a phone number or address.

“We’re leaving no stone unturned to find these students to assure that they are safe and learning. In the end, there may be some students we just can’t reach, but it will be a very small number,” said Katarina Sandoval, the PED deputy secretary leading the project.

Most of the students accounted for so far have enrolled in private schools (26 percent) or moved out of state (23 percent). About 15 percent were found to be enrolled in a public school, and 7 percent are being home-schooled. About 3 percent have dropped out of school altogether.

Districts are required to report enrollment and attendance data to PED at regular intervals, beginning in late October. That data is usually not released until it is carefully verified — a weeks-long process — but because of growing public concern about disengaged students amid remote and hybrid learning models, the department broke protocol in November by announcing the unverified data suggesting more than 12,000 students were unaccounted for.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Feb. 19, 2021

Family Income Index legislation filed in NM Senate

Sen. Stewart’s bill would direct more funding to low-income students

SANTA FE — Senate Pro Tempore Mimi Stewart introduced legislation Thursday that would establish the Family Income Index, an innovative new strategy to attack concentrated poverty in New Mexico schools by directing additional funding to those schools with the greatest need.

The New Mexico Public Education Department first proposed a Family Income Index in December as a partnership with the Taxation and Revenue and Human Services departments to more precisely target resources to schools with large populations of economically disadvantaged students.

“I thought this was an innovative way to approach an age-old problem,” said Sen. Stewart, who is a retired educator. “Schools with large populations of low-income students need specific programs and services to support them, and those things cost money. The Family Income Index will target additional financial support to where it’s needed most.”

Research has shown that concentrated poverty complicates learning and teaching and creates and sustains disparities in academic outcomes. For example, in schools with large numbers of economically disadvantaged students, students are less likely to score well on tests, earn high grades, graduate from high school and succeed in college than their peers in socioeconomically diverse schools.

“This is an equity issue, pure and simple. We know these disparities exist, and we know of specific strategies that help equalize academic outcomes,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “Senator Stewart’s bill would target funding to help schools do what we know works.”

Per the legislation, Senate Bill 17, the Public Education Department would use data from the other two agencies to calculate the household income of every New Mexico public school student. The agency then would calculate for every school the percentage of students in five income categories ranging from above average to extremely low, resulting in a ranked list of schools with the highest populations of low-income students.

Schools would use the extra funding provided through the index for programs that have been shown to improve student outcomes. Funding could be used for school counselors and social workers; for family information and resource centers; for culturally and linguistically diverse classroom texts; for innovative professional learning opportunities for educators; for after-school enrichment programs; for robust community needs assessments; for academic interventions such as structured literacy and evidence-based math strategies; and for mentoring supports, to name a few.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Jan. 20, 2021

PED seeks waiver to pause spring student assessment

High-stakes test data would be invalid amid pandemic

SANTA FE — The Public Education Department will request a waiver that would allow schools and districts to skip high-stakes student assessments again this spring, shifting instead to optional testing to benchmark academic achievement and identify any gaps in learning.

The U.S. Department of Education waived the end-of-year assessment requirement for all 50 states last spring amid abrupt school closures and a shift to remote learning. New Mexico will join other states, including Michigan, New York, Oregon and Washington, in asking for a new waiver for spring 2021.

“As we approach the spring 2021 testing window, New Mexico finds itself in a situation parallel to spring 2020,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “We are requesting this waiver because test data would be invalid given the abbreviated time we’ve had for in-person learning and to prioritize student wellness in a way that high-stress, high-stakes testing does not.”

New Mexico proposes to allow schools and districts to opt-in to administer end-of-year standardized tests, creating a sample of data to identify where students stand academically after a year of non-traditional education. Results from optional testing would not be used to make important decisions about students, educators, schools, or districts, thus reducing the stakes — and stress — for students and educators.

“We’ll ask districts to participate voluntarily in assessments so we’ll have a representative sample showing where we are in terms of student performance,” said Deputy Secretary Gwendolyn Perea Warniment.

In addition, New Mexico will continue offering the SAT for high school students as an equity issue because it is required with most college applications.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Jan. 26, 2021

In-person learning to be expanded to all K-12 schools

Secondary schools included in new return-to-school plan

SANTA FE — Middle and high school students are included in a decision announced Tuesday to expand in-person learning options beginning Feb. 8 for every district and charter school across New Mexico based on extensive preparations and protocols to assure student and educator safety.

The Public Education Department’s updated guidance for expanded in-person learning, approved by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, gives school districts and charter schools three options for in-person learning:

  • All schools — elementary and secondary — in all counties will be eligible to enter the hybrid mode, which means bringing back up to 50 percent of students at a time in order to maintain social distancing and to keep students in smaller cohorts to avoid virus transmission;
  • Districts and schools with fewer than 100 students may bring back all students in a 5:1 ratio with no more than six people per enclosed indoor space;
  • Districts/schools not ready to welcome back students into a full hybrid model may expand small-group instruction to all grades — maintaining cohorts — with up to 50 percent of students participating at a time.

The expansion of in-person learning – announced in the governor’s State of the State address, issued Tuesday – is the result of extensive collaboration between the Governor’s Office, the Public Education Department, the Department of Health, school and district leaders, unions, educators and school staff to collect COVID-19 data, implement COVID-safe practices, conduct surveillance testing, improve indoor air quality, distribute PPE, monitor the Rapid Response Watchlist, and prioritize educators for the vaccine.

“I’m proud of the months of analysis and preparation conducted by the state alongside superintendents, charter leaders, the Medical Advisory Team and union leadership to ensure the safety of school buildings and environments,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “There’s no substitute for in-person learning. And the health and safety of students, families and educators are non-negotiable. I believe the planning and hard work have paid off in a robust and epidemiologically sound plan, and districts and schools may soon begin to make the decision to bring back more students safely for in-person learning.”

“This is the news we’ve all been waiting for and a significant step in returning to what we all knew as ‘normal’ before last March,” said Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart. “The state has removed barriers to in-person learning that were erected to protect the health and lives of New Mexicans, but it’s important to note that individual districts and charter schools still may decide that it’s in the best interests of their staff, students and communities to remain in a remote stance for now.”

Even if their schools move to hybrid, families may choose for their children to remain in the remote learning mode, including children living on tribal territory that remains closed.

“We are asking districts to respect tribal sovereignty in this as in other regards,” Stewart said. “Students will not be forced to violate the rules of their community by coming and going to school.”

All three options to expand in-person learning require districts and charter schools to meet rigorous safety measures, including:

  • For red counties, surveillance testing for all in-person staff at a rate of 25 percent per week to achieve 100 percent testing over a month’s time;
  • For yellow and green counties, surveillance testing for all in-person staff at a rate of 12.5 percent per week to achieve 100 percent testing over two months’ time;
  • An onsite visit to certify readiness to open safely;
  • Continued cohorting of student groups;
  • Consistent reporting of the number of individuals on campus;
  • Strict enforcement of COVID-safe practices like mask-wearing and social distancing;
  • Upgraded air filtration to improve indoor air quality;
  • Signed assurance that the district will follow PED Rapid Response Protocols.

PED created an anonymous reporting portal last fall to allow anyone to report concerns that a school or district was not meeting the safety protocols, and that portal will remain an important tool for monitoring compliance.

“With appropriate protocols in place, we now know that schools can operate more safely than many other parts of the economy,” Stewart said. “The Public Education Department will continue to see that those protocols are observed.”

This will be the first opportunity for in-person learning since mid-March for most middle school and high school students. Most elementary schools were eligible to reopen in the hybrid mode this fall if they were in a green county and met rigorous safety protocols.

Since then, data from rapid responses show that schools generally have been able to avoid school-based outbreaks in New Mexico, mirroring recent national and international studies. No New Mexico schools have reached the rapid response closure threshold of four rapid responses in a 14-day period. The current test positivity rate for school staff is 2.2 percent.

The expanded in-person learning plan was developed in partnership with two unions representing New Mexico educators.

“NEA-New Mexico has long appreciated the governor and the Public Education Department’s approach grounded in science and safety for our students. We now plan to work closely with them to ensure that those districts choosing to expand in-person learning rigorously follow COVID-safe practices in order to protect the lives of students, families, educators and communities,” said Mary Parr-Sanchez, president of the National Education Association New Mexico.

“We are extremely pleased to see this plan’s embrace of continued COVID-safe practices, among them the strong efforts to safely accommodate high-risk educators, ventilation and classroom air filtration, on-going surveillance testing, sanitation protocols, adequate personal protective equipment, and transportation and isolation protocols,” said Stephanie Ly, president of the American Federation of Teachers New Mexico.

“New Mexico educators appreciate Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Secretary Dr. Ryan Stewart’s strong commitment to our on-going partnership as stakeholders in this effort, and we celebrate our shared goal of safely returning to in-person instruction and education for the students, families, and communities we serve when each of the COVID-safe requirements are met and certified by the state,” Ly said.

School closings have been hardest on low-income families, especially those lacking digital devices or internet connectivity. That led to a multi-prong, public-private effort to narrow New Mexico’s digital divide by creating hundreds of internet hotspots around the state, distributing thousands of Google Chromebooks to Native American students, encouraging internet providers to offer affordable service, and obtaining state and federal funding to close remaining gaps.

Additionally, PED distributed millions of meals to students and launched ENGAGE NM to provide supports to those disengaged in remote learning. The agency also helped schools prepare to welcome students back by distributing PPE, including masks, and by prioritizing educators for the vaccine.

“The faster we get New Mexicans registered and vaccinated – and the more testing we continue to do – the more we’ll corner this virus and reclaim other aspects of our lives,” said DOH Secretary-Designate Dr. Tracie Collins.

“Because we can better enforce COVID-19 safe practices in schools, as we expand to in-person learning in school districts, we can mitigate the spread of the virus and ensure the best safety measures for kids/students, teachers and staff in schools,” said Human Services Secretary Dr. David Scrase.

The governor first ordered schools closed in mid-March when COVID had only a toe-hold in the state and little was known about how it spread. In the fall, elementary schools in green counties were allowed to reopen in the hybrid mode after meeting rigorous safety requirements; many opted to remain in remote learning mode.

By the Numbers

Here is a look at supports the Public Education Department and our agency partners have provided to districts, schools, educators and students since schools first closed in mid-March:

Technology Provided:
  • 6,285: Chromebooks distributed
  • 700: Mobile hotspots distributed
  • 102: Cradlepoint devices distributed (WiFi using cellular data)
  • $5.75 million: GEER funding for technology (all but $121,000 allocated)
  • $1.45 million: Approved for a project to get fiber to Pine Hill School near El Morro National Monument
  • 100 percent: The number of local exchange carriers now providing discounted service for students.
  • $40 million: CARES Act funding districts/charters spent on technology
Meals Provided:
  • 26,616,879 meals
  • 335,000 students served in public and charter schools, Bureau of Indian Education and private schools and children in residential child care institutions
Personal Protective Equipment Provided:
  • 60,000: N95 masks
  • 2,000: Face shields
  • 60,000 pairs: Medical gloves
  • 562,426: Cloth masks
  • 489,420: Cloth masks for adults
  • 86,000: Surgical masks
Help for Educators:

The Public Education Department spent $6 million to make the Canvas learning management system available to every district and charter school for two years to assist with remote instruction.

  • 98: Districts or charter schools that have signed up to use Canvas
  • 38: Number of those that are currently implemented
  • 142,062: Total local courses created in Canvas
  • 29,639: Total local active courses in Canvas
  • 90,302: NM students enrolled locally in Canvas courses
  • 10,968: Teachers enrolled locally in Canvas course
  • 33: Unique professional development courses created for educators
  • 20,165: Educators who have enrolled
  • 97: Percent of districts/charters that have accessed professional development in Canvas
  • 1,433: Educators who have attended live Canvas webinars/workshops
  • 11,646: Badges that have been awarded to NM educators for professional development

In addition to Canvas, PED provided additional professional development training for educators in these amounts:

  • $2.4 million: Math reentry supports
  • $1.6 million: Language arts reentry supports
  • $650,000: reentry and learning acceleration

Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Jan. 20, 2021

PED, partners account for 7,500+ students

Unaccounted-for list shrinks to 4,639 from high of 12,186

SANTA FE — The New Mexico Public Education Department and its partners have accounted for almost two-thirds of the 12,000-plus students who were enrolled in public schools last spring but not this fall and were therefore feared to be outside the educational system.

As of this week, 7,547 students — 62 percent — had been located through direct outreach, district feedback via spreadsheets, cross-referencing databases and more recent attendance data reported by districts and charter schools to the Public Education Department in early December.

That leaves 4,639 students still unaccounted for, down from a high of 12,186 in mid-November.

The PED and its partner agencies — the Early Childhood Education and Care Department; the Indian Affairs Department; the Office of African American Affairs; the Children, Youth and Families Department, and the Human Services Department — began direct outreach last week, calling hundreds of families of students who remain unaccounted for, talking directly to some families and leaving messages for others. Follow-up calls are underway this week, to be followed by COVID-safe home visits starting next week for those who can’t be reached by phone.

The Graduation Alliance, PED’s partner in re-engaging with students, is also helping with outreach.

Most of the students accounted for so far have enrolled in either public, private or Bureau of Indian Education schools, while others have moved out of state or are being home-schooled.

PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said the work will continue until every school-age New Mexico child and youth is known to be safe and engaged in learning.

The statewide effort to account for students began with a letter sent in November to each student’s last known address. As of Tuesday, responses to that letter had accounted for 1,038 students, with additional responses continuing to trickle in. To date, 91 of those responding to the mailer requested additional assistance; nine were referred to the Children, Youth and Families Department; and 42 were found to not be attending school at all.

“These families are facing lots of loss, lots of challenges. We’re hearing heart-wrenching stories,” Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval said. “We have families hit by COVID loss and secondary students who were separated from their families because of housing issues. In some cases, school just fell by the wayside. We’re getting them the referrals they need to get back on track.”

Districts are required to report enrollment and attendance data to PED at regular intervals, beginning in late October. That data is usually not released until it is carefully verified — a weeks-long process — but because of growing public concern about disengaged students amid remote and hybrid learning models, the department broke protocol in November by announcing the unverified data suggesting more than 12,000 students were unaccounted for.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Jan. 14, 2021

Education makes up almost half of Executive Budget

Proposed budget shows commitment to education ‘moonshot’

SANTA FE — In a clear sign that Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s education “moonshot” remains a key priority amid this year’s economic and health crises, the Executive Budget Recommendation builds on recent investments and seeks innovative ways to support students who need it most.

The proposed fiscal year 2022 budget, released Monday by the Department of Finance and Administration, recommends spending $3.3 billion of the $7.3 billion recurring general fund total on public education. That is a 4 percent increase from FY21 as the state moves aggressively to meet its legal and moral commitment to New Mexico students as outlined in the historic Yazzie-Martinez consolidated lawsuit.

“The wellbeing and education of New Mexico’s children continues to be a top priority for the state, despite the immense burden created by the pandemic. That’s why this budget includes needed resources to meet the new challenge of getting children and students safely back to school and helping them excel,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

The Executive Budget Recommendation seeks to expand the public education moonshot, which was launched in FY20 with the largest increase in education funding in state history. For FY22, the governor is asking the Legislature to expand the use of funds previously earmarked for K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time Programs to allow school districts and charter schools access to that money to pay for career technical education and community school initiatives, in addition to paying for added learning time.

“We want more schools, more districts and more students to opt-in to programs designed to extend instructional time, and those that do will be eligible for additional resources for Career Technical Education and Community Schools,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

Equity First Budget for Public Education

Key to the governor’s plan are proposals to direct additional resources to schools and districts with the greatest proportion of low-income students. To that end, the budget proposes eliminating the practice of reducing state funding for districts that receive federal impact aid payments, funding that often supports the education of Native American students. This provision would cost $35 million and would mean additional resources to school districts and charter schools.

Additionally, the budget includes a new “Family Income Index,” a proposal that would use more targeted tax and income data to identify schools that serve large populations of economically disadvantaged students and direct $80 million from the Public Education Reform Fund over two years to schools that need it the most.

“The Family Income Index will let us better identify students who need the most support, and then direct more resources to their schools, which can decide how best to help them,” Secretary Stewart said. “At its heart, this is an equity budget designed to give all New Mexico children a better chance to learn and thrive.”

Equity is also behind the executive budget proposal to transfer $30 million in unspent funds to the Indian Education Fund to support efforts to improve education in New Mexico’s tribal communities. The appropriation would support implementation of the Tribal Remedy Framework, support tribal sovereignty and provide resources for locally determined needs.

Closing the Digital Divide

The executive budget recommendation also requests $10 million to provide digital devices and extend internet connectivity to remote parts of New Mexico to give all students access to the tools they need to access digital content and instruction both during the health pandemic and in the future.

State agency budgets for FY22 will be finalized during the 2021 legislative session.


Contact:
Judy Robinson
505-469-5496
judy.robinson@state.nm.us

Jan. 8, 2021

NM educators in line for COVID-19 vaccine

Phase 1B of vaccination plan includes K-12 educators as essential workers

SANTA FE — New Mexico educators are now in line for the COVID-19 vaccine, a critical step in returning to greater in-person learning amid the global pandemic, the New Mexico Department of Health announced Friday.

Phase 1B of New Mexico’s vaccine distribution plan is now under way and will include classroom teachers, school-based cafeteria and janitorial workers and administrative and support staff, the Department of Health said.

“This is welcome news and a critical step in getting back to the educational gold standard, which is in-person learning,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said. “Prioritizing educators early in the vaccine distribution process shows New Mexico’s continuing commitment to the health and safety of these vital frontline workers in whose hands we entrust the future of our children.”

The Department of Health sets the criteria for the phases of vaccine distribution, which began in late December. In Phase 1A, vaccines were available to frontline health-care workers and others providing direct in-person services to patients, persons with disabilities and persons living in congregate care settings.

Phase 1B, which began Friday, adds these groups, in sequence: New Mexicans 75 years and older; those 16 and older with underlying medical conditions that place them at greater risk from COVID-19, and frontline essential workers who cannot work remotely. The latter group includes early education and K-12 educators.

To manage distribution as more vaccines become available, the health department has established a website where New Mexicans can register for the vaccine: https://cvvaccine.nmhealth.org. Nearly a quarter million New Mexicans have already used the website to create a personal profile that includes medical and employment information and other data that will determine when they are eligible to get a vaccine. Those who register will be notified when they become eligible and shots are available in their area.

Users who have questions or would like support with the registration process – including New Mexicans who do not have internet access – can dial 1-855-600-3453, press option 0 for vaccine questions, and then option 4 for tech support


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Page last updated April 16, 2021