After waiting for nearly half a year, the second shipment of student laptop computers, ordered July 1, have finally arrived and been distributed. The final 600 arrived and were made available to students from eighth through twelfth grades who had been waiting. Once all the computers are dispersed all students, Pre-K through twelfth grade will have a device on which they can do their work and attend virtual classes. The remaining piece of the puzzle will be in place once delivery of “hot spot” links is made. These will be made available to families who have been identified as having poor or no internet access, either through geography or finances.
Even if it can be achieved for all students to have both a device and internet access, the experience from districts across the country has been that remote learning is a stopgap measure at best. Nationwide schools have seen students receiving failing grades in classes at double or triple the rate as in pre-pandemic years. This includes many who are not engaging at all, and essentially have a 0.0 grade point average. Even many kids who normally get good grades are struggling and too often not keeping up. In our district, though doing far better in this regard than the state average for New Mexico, too many are at risk, and too many are struggling to keep up.
•All families of students should have received a robo-call giving times for picking up your laptop. If you have not picked up your student’s laptop during the times scheduled, call your child’s school and arrange a time to do so. If you have had a loaner device provided by the school for use, you will need to return it before a new laptop will be given to you.
•The Christmas break begins at the end December 21, with the Friday before, December 18 as the final day of classes. This coincides with the end of the first semester and the second quarter of the school year. Students who have not gotten all their work in will have until midnight, January 3 to complete and submit everything. At that time, grading will be finalized for second quarter and first semester.
In this week leading up to the break, both high school and middle school are in midterm testing. (See schedule published with this article.)
•Following the Winter break, which ends January 4, the district is instituting a two week “reset,” during which all teaching and learning will be done remotely, from home. This will be a proactive step to help prevent any possible in-school COVID-19 cases in anticipation of family gatherings and travel occurring during the break. All school buildings will be closed for that period. Because these two weeks include two staff in-service days, there will be only eight instruction days impacted.
•Student immunizations are still required for all enrolled students, if you have not gotten record of those to the schools yet, must be up to date. They are due by December 31 unless a signed waiver form is submitted.
•The district is just concluding it’s “Winter Wonderland” program of movies, contests, and other activities. The nightly movies, shown via Zoom and hosted by Dr. Segura have been a popular virtual gathering spot for those who took part. The costume, cake, cookie and tree decorating, and other contests will be judged, and the winners announced soon.
•As the schools of our community enter their final week of classes before the Christmas break, they continue to struggle with remote learning. Pre-K through fifth-grade students, as well as very small groups of special education students, are still the only ones allowed to engage in classes held in school. Even for those, it is conducted within the hybrid model that allows for just two days of actual in-school classes for students whose families have opted into that plan. Most of our district’s students are challenged with keeping up their education via computer screen for at least some, if not all of their classwork.
In addition to the challenge of providing education to all our students, the schools are also trying to find ways to help students to stay engaged and not feel isolated and disconnected from their schools, classmates, and community. Both education and the social, emotional and mental health of students are at risk in the environment in which our district schools are required to operate. Teachers, administrators and virtually every staff member of the school community are working overtime to find ways to meet these needs. Only with the backing and help from the entire community can the schools continue to provide the vital role with which they are entrusted.