EDITORIAL: With an APS path to in-person school, we need to think 'green'

Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
·4 min read

Mar. 6—Although it took serious nudging, prodding, maybe a little shaming and certainly unnecessary weeks of delay, the APS school board has finally approved a hybrid reopening plan — and what it will take for that to occur.

The board on Wednesday approved a plan that calls for in-person instruction two days a week for APS students contingent on Bernalillo County reaching "green" status within the Department of Health's COVID-19 red-to-turquoise framework. Bernalillo County is currently in the "yellow" category, meaning it meets the virus test positivity rate threshold but must improve its average daily case rate.

Interim Superintendent Scott Elder had presented a sound limited hybrid plan for grades K-12 two weeks ago.

The board didn't even vote on that plan, instead voting 4-3 against a limited hybrid model involving elementary students only. The board then voted in favor of a limited learning model that allows small, select groups of students of all grades to receive some in-person learning.

This past Wednesday, finally, the board outlined a plan for the rest of the year.

While the approved hybrid learning model contingent on reaching "green" falls far short of the Centers for Disease Control's advice to open schools sooner rather than later and lags far behind what most other districts are doing nationwide, it is a ray of sunshine for the district's tens of thousands of students.

And it came on the same day that 3,000 student-athletes were told they could begin practicing in pods Monday since the Public Education Department approved APS' small-group, in-person learning model. It's been almost a year since any team in the state's largest school district has played a game.

Elder cautions the district would need to get to "green" before May 1 or it's too close to the end of the school year, May 25, to change models.

So it's all the more reason for everyone to double down on mask-wearing, hand-washing, social-distancing and sign up for that vaccine. If not for yourself, do it for the students. If we can get the level down to green, many students will at least have a few weeks to reconnect with classmates and get some face-to-face time with their teachers.

The school board's decision Wednesday to allow a hybrid model could be due to Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who said she was "very disappointed" with the board's Feb. 17 decision rejecting any hybrid model. But then again, APS all along has said it would go to some form of in-person learning when the case numbers reached a safe level.

The vote also follows the odd announcement last week that APS is planning in-person graduations the week of May 10, based on the governor's health orders. While the class of 2021 and all APS students deserved better than adults who couldn't get their act together to deliver safe, in-person learning like many, many school districts in our own state and across the nation, they will at least have some form of normalcy for their graduation. Many of last year's seniors had to rely on drive-through ceremonies.

While Elder's original plan relied on teachers volunteering to return to classrooms, the in-person plan approved by the school board Wednesday does not let teachers unilaterally determine if schools can reopen. Staffers will be required to work from school unless they have an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. This appears to match the union's stance that in-person teaching should be optional for teachers until they have the vaccine or until Bernalillo County turns green.

The 2020-21 school year is almost over. But we and APS have heard from numerous students and families who just want to salvage what they can of the school year and prepare for the next.

The APS school board has finally provided the path. Now it's incumbent on us all to drive down the numbers so students and student-athletes can get on it.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.