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New Mexico reopens classrooms to some students after halt

January 19, 2021 GMT

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Classrooms in some New Mexico schools were scheduled on Monday to allow in-person education for the first time this semester.

In-person classes were temporarily suspended by the state for two weeks earlier this month to prevent a feared increase in COVID-19 cases, the Albuquerque Journal reported Sunday. Small groups of students with disabilities were allowed to attend classes, but schools offering other in-person classes had to shut their doors and teach remotely.

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The New Mexico Public Education Department was unable to provide a count of schools planning to reopen in-person classes Monday.

Schools are now able to restart schedules that were planned before the pause, including those mixing in-person and remote lessons. Previously, about 60 schools were operating on a hybrid model and four districts, each with 100 students or less, were allowed to hold in-person learning with five students per teacher.

The temporary ban on in-person learning was prudent, state Secretary of Education Ryan Stewart said.

“We are, by doing it, positioning ourselves to be better able to expand in-person learning hopefully here in the near future,” Stewart said.

About 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) southeast of Albuquerque, Corona Public Schools was among the districts allowed to bring its K-12 students back to campus — all 60 of them.

Superintendent Travis Lightfoot said he was eager to return, having missed the students and spent the past two weeks juggling his work while helping his daughters with their at-home learning.

“It’s just as hard as any other parent,” he said. “I’ve taught many subjects and substituted for many different content areas and grade levels throughout my (22) years as superintendent, but teaching my own children is a bit of a different situation,” he said.

“My kids are tired of their dad being their teacher,” he added.

Some districts, such as Rio Rancho Public Schools, will see students return on Tuesday because of the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on Monday.

Most schools in the state are continuing to do remote learning or small in-person lessons for younger students and special education students.

The Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education plans to keep students in remote learning until Bernalillo County meets “green” level public health thresholds for COVID-19 data, including a drop in the rates of reported cases.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.