Children wearing protective face masks sit in classroom for the first day of classes of the new school year at the GuthsMuths elementary school during the coronavirus pandemic on Aug. 10, 2020 in Berlin. (Photo by Maja Hitij / Getty Images)
During the first month back to in-person learning, New Mexico’s third-largest school district has reported a COVID case every day. Cases popped up in every K-12 school — except for the SpaRRk Academy virtual school.
Nearly 17,000 students attend Rio Rancho Public Schools. So far 115 cases have been reported in the district, requiring 516 students — ranging from pre-K to high school — to quarantine. Thirty-two employees have quarantined, according to the COVID tracking page updated by RRPS.
“This page is an added level of transparency that we have,” said Melissa Perez, the RRPS spokesperson. It is not required by the state’s Public Education Department, she pointed out. “It will show you all of the information we release on cases. We follow the NMPED guidelines for COVID response, and that is also posted to our website on our school re-entry information web page.”
The transparency is some relief for parents. They also receive automated emails alerting them about a new case on their child’s campus. Students in close contact with the person are instructed to quarantine until they return a negative test to their school.
Shelley Selover is a parent of a junior at Rio Rancho High School. So far, she’s received nine emails showing a positive case at her daughter’s school.
“It’s been pretty continual,” she said. “I think the longest stretch we’ve gone is maybe three days.”
Her daughter has not had to quarantine but wonders if it’s just a matter of time. Selover said her family does everything they can to stay safe.
“We’re vaccinated,” she said. “We’re all pretty healthy. We all get over illnesses OK, but I do feel for children who have issues that would make contracting it a huge struggle for them, and my heart goes out to them.”
RRPS solicited comments from parents before the school year to gauge concerns and to engage in a dialogue about the protections against the virus, something Selover acknowledged is bringing her some peace of mind.
“They’re in a tough spot, because they’re gonna make somebody angry one way or the other no matter what they do,” she said. “It would have been easier to kind of walk the line in the middle. But they didn’t. They always stayed on the side of caution, trying to protect the kids.”
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