(Editor's note: The Los Lunas Board of education on Tuesday, Feb. 2, voted 4-1 to remain in remote learning. The reentry plan for in-person learning will be revisited during a March 23 board meeting. Make sure to pick up a copy of Thursday's Valencia County News-Bulletin for an updated story.)
LOS LUNAS — Los Lunas Schools has a plan for hybrid reentry, and it’s a plan that will see some students head back to the classroom before spring break.
The recommendation will be presented to the Los Lunas Board of Education on Tuesday, Feb. 2, during a special board meeting, when the board consider the reentry plan, Superintendent Arsenio Romero said.
The hybrid start date is slated for Monday, Feb. 22, with high school students heading back to the classroom first. In the following weeks before spring break, middle school students as well as elementary students will be back in the classroom, too, Romero said.
While the plan is for this rollout to happen, the dates in which some students return for in-person learning can be tinkered with, and can extend into March depending upon how the initial rollout transpires. It’s something Romero calls a “scalable approach.”
“This allows us to have a couple of weeks of getting classrooms ready, and that’s really where that date comes from. It’s harder to go earlier than that,” Romero said. “I also don’t want to push it out anymore because there is this other over-hanging thing about sports.”
Romero said that while sports played a big factor in possibly sending high-schoolers back first, it wasn’t the only reason. Building space — for example in hallways — is larger and allows for more social distancing, he said.
However, Romero said he doesn’t want to call this plan a full-on hybrid model. Students and parents, as PED noted last week, can make the choice on if they want to return to in-person learning or stay at home in a remote model.
“So what that means is we’re going to have two strands — we’re going to have a full hybrid model, and we’re going to have a full virtual model, and we’ll have to run both of those things at the same time,” Romero said.
For those who do enter that hybrid model, students will head to the classroom in one of two groups — one group that goes to class on Mondays and Tuesdays and another that goes to class on Thursdays and Fridays.
Wednesdays are strictly for remote learning so that schools can sanitize their buildings. While sanitization will be an everyday occurrence, Wednesday and Friday afternoons will be the days when a “deep clean” will take place. To try and stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, teachers will also have a checklist of things that will need to be completed throughout the day.
“What we’ll see are a few different checklists that teachers and custodians will be doing,” Romero said. “... there’s going to be a checklist for teachers to be able to do ... kind of like just wiping down tables, wiping down desks. There’s also a checklist every evening for custodians to be able to do a much more thorough cleaning of everything in the classroom.”
Students who do come back to in-person learning will be required to wear face masks. Desks will be 6 feet apart, and social distancing will be required for students who use bus transportation.
As for teachers, the district had previously purchased PPE for use once in-person learning begins, which includes gowns and face shields, Romero said, though teachers won’t be required to wear either — just masks.
With a lot leading up to hybrid reentry, items on the COVID-19 Response Toolkit from PED need to be met, Romero said. Some of those items include making sure the district has adequate supplies of PPE, as well as a sufficient rapid response mechanism and proper surveillance testing for school staff.
Since Valencia County is in the red level, 25 percent of staff must be randomly tested under surveillance testing protocols, according to PED. That, however, has already begun as some groups of special needs students begin class on Feb. 1.
Something that needs to be put in place — and that needs PED and a local fire marshal approval — are air purification systems. PED is requiring districts to have MERV-13 filters installed in classrooms, though there is approval for HEPA filters as well. Some HVAC systems at Los Lunas Schools aren’t compatible with MERV-13 filters.
The district has purchased 20 filters for those small 5:1 pods of special education students, but have more than 600 on order for the rest of the district. Those filters, if the purchase is approved by the board, should begin arriving on Monday, Feb. 8. Romero said he expects the installation would occur in the days following.
Romero said PED and the fire marshal will most likely do their walk throughs and give their approval towards the end of the week, on Feb. 11-12.
A parent survey and Nearpod
Los Lunas Schools sent out a parent survey last week, hoping to gauge what parents and students want when it came to a learning model.
While that survey’s deadline is today — Monday, Feb. 1 — Romero said on Friday the results so far are about “half and half” when it comes to parents either wanting in-person learning or remote learning.
In the end, students and parents do hold the decision on if they want to come back for in-person learning.
As for teachers, though, PED said teachers who are “high risk” are the only group that can have a remote option.
“There are going to be some teachers for very valid health reasons — either themselves personally or with their family — that don’t feel comfortable coming back and being around other people,” Romero said. “... we can definitely work within that because we’re still going to have probably about half of our students only being in a virtual setting.”
For teachers who do come back for in-person learning and who have students that plan to stay remote will have an option to still teach them, too, using a specialized program.
“What we’re looking at is a program called Nearpod, and Nearpod is a great educational tool that allows for you to actually run both models at the same time,” Romero said. “Let’s say a seventh grade math teacher, they will be able to work with their in-person students and the virtual students at the same time because we’ve got one-on-one devices; we’ve got all the technology in place, and that educational platform will allow for that to happen.”
The special board meeting to vote on the hybrid reentry approval is slated for 5 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 2. The meeting will be streamed live on the district’s YouTube channel.
(Read Thursday's edition of the Valencia County News-Bulletin for an updated story and the board's decision.)