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The Artesia Public Schools (APS) Board of Education held a special meeting today to discuss its plans for the near future in light of the fact that several counties in Southeast New Mexico may not be able to move forward with the New Mexico Public Education Department’s (NMPED) hybrid learning model due to increased cases of COVID-19.

Should Eddy County remain in the “red” — determined by the rate of positive cases in recent weeks in relation to population — on Sept. 8, the APS will continue in remote mode until the county is eligible to transition to hybrid learning. As such, the APS is urging the community to “help us get kids back in school” by wearing masks in public spaces, practicing social distancing, washing hands frequently, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home if experiencing symptoms of illness.

Following is a list of topics discussed this evening by the board.

CONTINUING IN REMOTE MODE

• Districts remaining in remote learning, which include not only those in “red” counties but those districts that have determined they do not feel it is safe at this time to move into hybrid mode, will be eligible to conduct in-person learning for small groups of students in pre-kindergarten through third grade and students with disabilities utilizing a ratio of five students per one teacher.

• Since Aug. 13, the Artesia Public Schools have been implementing these small learning pods for DD preschool students ages 3 and 4 (two days per week, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.); kindergarten through second-grade students (two half-days per week); and D-level special education students (four days per week, 8 a.m. – 1 p.m.).

SPECIAL EDUCATION

• Special education students will be divided into groups of five students per one teacher.

• Kindergarten through second-grade students will work with special education teachers in addition to general education teachers (i.e., regular classroom in the morning, special education classroom in the afternoon).

• Third- through 12th-grade students will work in person with special education teachers two days per week.

• Therapists and diagnosticians will work with students in face-to-face sessions.

• All safety protocols for hybrid learning will be followed.

NEW MEXICO ACTIVITIES ASSOCIATION

• School sports may engage in limited practice sessions following NMAA guidance.

• Temperature checks and health screenings will be performed.

• Athletes will work in pods of five players to one coach.

MOVING TO THE HYBRID MODEL

• Counties must be in the “green” in terms of positive test rates in order to move into hybrid mode. Schools in hybrid mode must have masks and personal protective equipment (PPE) on hand, COVID-safe cleaning procedures, and a point of contact for Rapid Response testing.

• Target dates for districts eligible to move into hybrid mode by Sept. 8 include a Sept. 8 return dates for students in grades K-5; a Sept. 21 return date for students in grades 6-8; and an Oct. 5 return date for students in grades 9-12.

• Schools engaging in hybrid learning will be able to utilize 50% of their building and classroom capacities. Students will attend on specified, staggered days of the week according to the first letters of their last names. Families requesting to change groups have been accommodated.