by Sharon Niederman
COLFAX — Despite New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s Friday, March 27, 2020 executive order to close all New Mexico public schools through the end of the academic year, when it comes to graduation, milestones, academic achievement, and support, a “can do” spirit is flourishing among Colfax County educators.
Raton Public School Superintendent Andy Ortiz sounded upbeat when asked about the fallout of closing schools for the rest of the year as the “learn-at-home” model replaces classroom teaching.
“Seniors are our number one priority,” Ortiz said. “We will work with our seniors, reaching out to those who may still need a few credits to graduate.” “We will have some kind of graduation ceremony in June or July,” Ortiz promised. The graduating class numbers between 50-60 students.
Anticipating the extended shutdown, RPS notified all parents of the situation. Teachers will continue to interact with students through distance techniques. As “learn-at-home” kicks in, “We are sending learning packets and working with students who may be without home devices,” he said. A meeting was held Monday, March 30 to deal with this issue.
“The PED (Public Education Department) and the district will design a continuous education curriculum,” Ortiz stated. “As our plan comes together, we will communicate it with the community.”
Lou Martinez, RPS special education director, said, “ I don’t think it’s going to be a bad thing.” Martinez oversees a department that has 160 special education students, ten teachers, 18 education assistants, and numerous specialized contractors to work with students’ special needs.
All parents of special needs children have access to her through cell phone and email. “We have to follow guidelines for the health and welfare of students and staff,” she said. “This is new to everybody, so there’s going to be a period of trial and error. We’re sending a letter to parents and planning how we can execute the directives, getting underway as soon as possible. We are being creative as we can be to adapt to different situations. We are lifelong learners and will provide the very best we can,” she pledged.
As her program targets students’ individualized needs, Martinez foresees the closure as an opportunity to fine tune what works best for each and become even more individualized. “This might turn out to be exactly what we need,” she says.
Teaching in a Remote Area
“We are not an online school,” said Superintendent of Des Moines Schools Kodi Sumpter, “yet due to the crisis we have to adjust. Our goal is to provide the best education in a different environment.”
She, her staff, and community anticipated this change and already brought together resources to provide textbooks, computer devices, and Wi-Fi to each and every one of the 90-plus enrolled students.
With the help of local Internet provider Baca Valley, offering reduced rates, and government programs, they have the critical elements in place for each family in the remote area to go on line the week of April 6.
“Every teacher has reached out to every student,” she said. “We will use Zoom, and teachers and students will be trained in that program.”
While Sumpter does not expect perfection, and despite inevitable glitches along the way, “We will take care of every student socially, emotionally, and academically.”