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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s largest school district asked the state to separate athletics and other extracurricular activities from the hybrid learning structure being used because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education members said during a special meeting Monday they do not believe activities should be connected to a hybrid learning model, which is a current requirement set by the state Public Education Department, KRQE-TV reports.

Board members said students involved in extracurricular activities would perform better in school if they were allowed to continue doing extracurricular activities they love.

Athletes, parents and coaches over the weekend protested the school board’s decision to remain in the online hybrid class model through the remainder of the school year, which would prevent participation in activities including band, choir, chess, drama and others overseen by the New Mexico Activities Association.

The Albuquerque board approved a letter Monday to Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham asking for the separation with assurances the split can be conducted safely.

“Give our athletes a chance to play, if they can play, and I know that coaches are going to do a good job trying to keep these athletes safe,” Albuquerque Board of Education President David Peercy said.

The Public Education Department issued a statement saying it has remained focused on safety, maximizing in-person learning opportunities and basing decisions on science and data.

The department’s order of operation will proceed with districts and schools showing they can safely reopen for in-person learning, taking a two-week pause to ensure the virus has not taken hold and then expanding school activities.

“We remain optimistic that both in-person learning and in-person extra-curricular activities will continue to expand throughout the spring by following this safe, prudent approach,” the department said.

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.