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Superintendent's News

Posted: March 12, 2021

One Year Ago

In his weekly message to employees, Supt. Elder reflects on where APS has been and where the district is going.

It was a year ago today, March 12, 2020, when New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called for the closure of all public schools to minimize the spread of the coronavirus.

We've been working on getting our kids back in schools ever since. 

To say it's been a challenging year is an understatement. To say it has been life-changing is not an exaggeration. In some ways, we are better for the journey that forced us to band together, focus sharply, think differently. Though battered, we were never beaten. Though derailed, we always got back on track.

Now, 365 long days later, we can see an end to this global nightmare as we forge a path back to normalcy and a return to the classroom.  

I still get a pit in my stomach when I think about those days leading up to school closures. I bet you do, too. I have a vivid memory of a crowded news conference where reporters had just been told that APS wasn't closing schools when we learned that the state ordered us to do just that.

We've gotten used to these public dictates, and there have been plenty of them over the past 12 months. Their goal, of course, is to keep New Mexicans safe and healthy, and we appreciate that. But their effect can be disruptive.     

The latest directive came Monday, as you probably know by now, from the Public Education Department, which announced its expectation that all New Mexico public and charter schools return to in-person learning by April 5.

That got our attention, even though we've been preparing for this day all year. As I have said repeatedly, students belong in school; that's where they learn best. While there has been plenty of amazing teaching happening in remote classrooms across the district – and within in-person, small groups of late – nothing can replace face-to-face instruction for all of our students.

So, now what? Well, on Friday morning (maybe even as you are reading this), we will present an updated Reentry Plan to the APS Board of Education. With just a few finishing touches, our plan is ready to roll out.    

Our instructional team has put together a Green+Red Instructional Model (in New Mexico, we call that Christmas.) The plan outlines instructional and procedural steps for teaching both in-person and remotely since parents have the option of having their children continue learning at home for the remainder of the school year. Needless to say, the plan emphasizes flexibility. It also offers support for teachers and staff.

Likewise, our operational team, which has been working nonstop to get schools ready for the safe return of students, is now nailing down the final particulars.

Inevitably, we will face some bumps on the road back, as we have throughout the pandemic. We will address each challenge to the greatest extent possible.

As an APS employee, you play an essential role in the transition from remote to in-person learning. One step you can take is to sign up for the COVID-19 Vaccine (and if you have already, make sure you update your employment information to K-12 Educator or School Staff.) This will help us as we work with the state to get the vaccine in the arms of all teachers and school staff who want it by the end of the month.

Another way you can help is to stay informed and to inform those around you. We will continue to update you – through our schools and offices, the website, newsletters, the media and social media, and the superintendent's weekly messages.

Stay informed, stay safe, stay prepared. But also be open-minded. We have a lot to do in the coming weeks, and we're going to get it done together.