School districts around New Mexico are working hard to finalize their plans for continuous learning for the rest of the semester, with schools closed to in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year.

Each district has until April 8 to submit a plan for state approval.

New Mexico’s Public Education Department approved the Española School District continuous learning plan this week, and their next step is communicating the plan to educators and then to students and parents.

Española School Disctrict Superintendent Fred Trujillo said the District has plans in place for both technology-based and non-technology-based curriculum, as some students don’t have reliable internet access.

The technology-based portion will use online programs including Edgenuity, which the District has had success in using for credit recovery.

Other students will do their work with paper and pencil, with constant communication with teachers wherever possible.

“Not only in Española, but across the state, some students have (internet) access, and some students do not,” Trujillo said. “But we’re making every effort to provide the same quality education whether it’s technology-based or non-technology-based.”

Española will adopt a pass/fail system for the remainder of the academic year. Students with satisfactory work will receive a passing grade, and high school credits will count towards graduation.

Full implementation of the plan across the District’s 13 schools begins Tuesday, April 14. From there, schools will run for five weeks until the original last day of school on May 22.

The New Mexico Public Education Department provided a 31-page document to each district to guide them through creating and implementing plans. The guide lays out plans for grade levels, gives examples of online resources and tools and lists services provided by internet providers. For middle school and high school students, they recommend three hours of learning time per day, with 30 minutes for each class. But each district has control over the details of its plan.

“We expect that our school districts and our charter schools are going to be a little bit more in tune to the specific needs of their community,” said Department Director of Communications Nancy Martira. “So, the guidance is pretty flexible to work with those specific communities.”

During this process, the Department is in touch with superintendents and school leaders to help with the process.

A problem for some districts is the lack of internet access for many students. The Department recommends as an option that schools provide drop off and pick up of lesson packets along with meals.

Additionally, PBS has begun showing educational programming during the day. Albuquerque Public Schools is developing programs that air on TV and radio every weekday morning for elementary school children, and which are available on YouTube.

While schools cannot replicate all of the missed time, they will hope to get as much as possible. Despite missing multiple weeks, though, districts will not go past their original end date.

“The focus really needs to be on core concepts,” Martira said. “For educators, what are the most important things that their students need to learn to advance to the next grade level. And that will be different for every age and every class.”

Martira also wanted to give credit to those involved with creating and implementing the plans.

“Our educators are really demonstrating some really creative ways to keep in touch with students and families,” she said. “We’ve already seen them going above and beyond during the temporary school closure period. And we expect that work to continue during the extended school closure period.”

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