LAS CRUCES, N.M. (KTSM) Beginning Monday, August 9, Las Cruces Public Schools students and staff will return to the classroom for the first time in over a year for in-person learning, despite a growing number of families who opted to enroll students in the district’s Virtual Learning Academy, or VLA.
LCPS Superintendent Ralph Ramos announced that masks will be required inside all LCPS buildings effective Wednesday, Aug. 4. The decision was made public during the LCPS Board of Education work session on Tuesday evening.
“Starting August 4, 2021, all LCPS students and staff will be required to wear masks indoors during the school day and during afterschool indoor events,” said Ramos. “We will continue to monitor the state’s public health orders and will comply with any mask requirements and social distancing guidelines as they relate to outdoor events on school grounds.”
According to LCPS policy, in the event of a health emergency declared by the Governor of the State of New Mexico and/or the Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health that requires the wearing of a face covering, the Board of Education can direct the Superintendent to establish procedures to ensure that all students and staff follow these health guidelines.
“We are following the most current guidance from our local and national health experts,” added Ramos, who added that maintaining a safe environment for students and staff remains a priority in planning for the upcoming school year.
Parents are encouraged to conduct wellness checks on their children before sending them to school. Students who have a fever or COVID-like symptoms should stay home. According to guidance from the New Mexico Public Education Department, anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 should self-isolate for 10 days.
As of Wednesday, the number of VLA students had grown to nearly 600, or roughly three percent of the overall student population at LCPS. According to Stephanie Hanway, principal at VLA, any student who wishes to attend classes virtually will be enrolled.
The deadline to register for classes through VLA is Friday, Aug. 6 at 5 p.m. Parents should contact their district school for more information on how to enroll in VLA.
“It’s a challenge, but we are making sure all students are taken care of,” said Hanway, following the district’s announcement Tuesday that masks will be required indoors for all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status. Prior to that, VLA numbers fluctuated from approximately 1,100 last semester to about 250 at the beginning of the summer. Hanway emphasized that VLA is completely virtual learning; it is not distance or hybrid learning.
“Students will not be in class on Zoom every day,” she explained. “Teachers will outline the expectations for the week, and it will be the responsibility of the student to complete the work and reach out for assistance.”
As a program, VLA has been an extension of LCPS for about 10 years. Originally offered as a way to recover credits or to accelerate, the need for VLA as an option for families became apparent when schools went fully remote in 2020. Today, plans to expand VLA to other parts of southern New Mexico are in the beginning stages.
“Our district is in a position to provide virtual learning to students in other counties,” explained LCPS Superintendent Ralph Ramos. “Thanks to efforts on behalf of our legislature, there are opportunities to expand greater access to the internet statewide, and for those students in districts where virtual learning is not an option, LCPS is there for them.”
Ramos added that logistics for students outside the district – like access to computers or other devices – are still being worked out. In LCPS, the ratio of devices to students districtwide was 1:1 at the end of the spring semester.
Athletics and Performing Arts
Sports and extracurricular activities will resume when school starts. Masks will be required indoors, and current guidance from the NMPED allows for travel and overnight stays. Quarantine for out of state travel is recommended, but not required.
All performing arts students, regardless of vaccination status, will be required to wear masks and maintain a six-foot social distance, or to the greatest extent possible. Specialized masks and bell covers are required for students playing wind instruments, and instruments are not to be shared. Supplies for cleaning instruments will be made available.
School gatherings and performances will be allowed, pending public health orders.
Organ Mountain High School
Monday starts the first day of school for the first graduating class of Organ Mountain High School. Plans to change signage from the former Oñate High School was underway over the summer and new signage is expected to go up in the coming weeks.
Schedules, School Supply Lists and Bilingual Resources
The first day of school for LCPS students in grades one through 12 is Monday, Aug. 9, with kindergarten transition days beginning Aug. 10. A copy of the 2021-2022 calendar can be found here. A schedule of class times for all grade levels can be found here.
Bilingual resources are available for LCPS families through the Bilingual Community Outreach Hotline, 575-468-8279. The hotline is on call Monday through Friday to help LCPS families with Canvas support, referrals, English classes, GED courses, Spanish classes, online registration, community resources and workshops.