by Sherry Goodyear
CIMARRON — Like all schools in New Mexico, the Cimarron Public School system has been scrambling to devise a plan that will allow students to come back to school in the fall and fulfill the overwhelming criteria laid out by the N.M. Public Education Department (PED). In a Zoom-televised school board meeting on Wednesday, July 15, Adan Estrada, the Superintendent of Cimarron Schools, discussed the plan for the upcoming year, a plan school board member Brett Weir pointed out still has to be approved by the governor’s office.
The biggest challenges for Cimarron Schools are the five requirements mandated by PED including,
1) Surveillance and rapid response testing,
2) Social distancing,
3) Avoidance of large groups,
4) Face coverings, and
5) Meals provided for all students including those being taught on-line – a tall order for public schools especially when one considers these rules are in direct contrast to what one thinks of when reflecting on the typical public school setting.
While creating the plan, Cimarron Schools have encouraged parents and citizens to weigh in, with Estrada making it clear that there is little leeway in PED’s mandates, but that he is certain the school will be able to provide a safe, clean environment for the area’s children. He also encouraged people to reach out to the governor’s office to express any issues they may have over the requirements.
As one would expect, parents are full of concerns from mandated random testing of students and employees and how that will work, to the mask requirement even for those playing sports,– a stipulation that has caused the school to halt summer training for sports until August 10 when school is set to resume.
Parents worry that it won’t be easy to keep five-year-olds from socially interacting with each other, or from whipping off a mask if they get a sudden urge to breathe unobstructed air. For all parties involved, the issue seems to be creating a balance between satisfying mandates and meeting the needs of teachers, students and parents.
The current plan allows for student instruction time to occur Tuesday through Friday, 9 to 3 to allow for the mandatory temperature-taking that will happen for all employees and students on the premises before school begins each day and to provide proper social-distancing in school buses. Teachers will have a prep hour from 8 to 9 each morning. Some parents are concerned about the shortened days and work-schedules of parents, but Estrada provided assurances that students needing to be dropped off early and picked up late would be accommodated even if he had to be there to monitor them himself. The school year will also be extended 10 to 25 days to help offset the educational losses from the past year when fear of COVID-19 caused schools to close in mid-March, and the plan is to allow students needing tutoring help to get it from 3 to 4 p.m. each day after school so that students are not having to wait until the bitter end to get the help they need.
Meeting the PED requirements means a lot of time, money, and effort will be going into extra thorough cleaning, temperature screenings, and maintaining social distance on buses and the like. On the upside, the school district is still going to honor the 4% raise teachers were supposed to get but that the governor’s office was not going to honor due to financial constraints caused by COVID-19.
In the end, the eleven-page proposed plan passed through school board four in favor to one against, and can be accessed on Cimarron Schools’ website here: docs.google.com/document/d/1nCbJykeaho9BqcPdwl9coRbdQykmp7kHQdL1GFs7TQ4/edit. This “living document” will be updated as changes need to be made to reflect what is happening within the state. The board meeting ended with Estrada encouraging parents that the school would work with everyone, “To find a plan that works for each child.”