NM School Closure: Information and Resources for Educators

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NM School Closure: Information and Resources for Educators

Dear AFT NM Members:

A lot has changed in our respective worlds in the 24-hours since we last reached out and sent a grouping of resources to you. These resources were developed by AFT, the NM PED, and other state agencies in order to inform you to the best of our collective ability the very rapidly changing landscape impacting New Mexico and our public schools.

Included in this e-mail are a variety of up-to-the-minute documents, resources, links, and suggestions (including what was sent out yesterday).

We recognize that this e-mail is longer than what we’d normally send out, however, we felt that in these unprecedented times, over sharing was better than potentially leaving out something you may find useful or informative.

Please know that your union, your local union leadership, and your state union leadership are working daily with state leaders at the NM PED, NM HED, and the Governor’s office to ensure our students, their families, and the communities in which we live and work are prioritized during this time. We are also working to make sure educator safety is always kept at the forefront as we develop a path forward to provide instruction to our students over the next five weeks.

THANK YOU to the educators who have been working to feed, protect, and care for our students during the last two weeks, and THANK YOU to all of the educators who have been collaborating with our districts and institutions to continue to provide meaningful instruction during this time.

Please continue to monitor your inbox, as we will continue to share information and resources as they become available.

In Solidarity,

Stephanie Ly                                     Kathy Chavez
President, AFT NM                           Executive VP, AFT NM



Press Release for Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham on NM School Closure:

March 27, 2020

Governor: K-12 school closings must continue

to prevent potential spread of COVID-19 

SANTA FE – New Mexico public education will shift to a learn-at-home model as schools remain closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and state education and child care officials announced Friday.​ 

The decision is part of a two-pronged plan to protect New Mexicans from COVID-19 and ensure that children are protected, fed and educated and that families are supported through this crisis.

The governor previously ordered all public schools closed for three weeks, March 16-April 3, but warned at the time that an extension could be needed. It came Friday with a new executive order that extends the closing through the end of the school year.

New Mexico had 136 confirmed positive COVID-19 cases as of Thursday afternoon, including some that are being investigated as community spread, the state Health Department said. School closings are designed to minimize community spread.

“We’re working very hard to contain the virus, and we have to continue to take aggressive steps to mitigate spread and protect New Mexicans of every age all across the state. It is more important than ever that we make sure all New Mexicans are heeding the imperative to stay home,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said. “Keeping schools closed is one of the most important tools we have to support the social distancing that can help us reduce and mitigate the spread of the virus.”

“Schools will not be required to make up the missed instructional days between March 16 and April 3, but for the remaining weeks of the school year to be waived, districts must develop both technology-based and non-technology-based continuous learning plans,” Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart said.

“We know that this decision will have tremendous implications for our families, but we must act to keep our communities safe and healthy,” Stewart said. “We also know that we have extraordinary teachers, support staff and school administrators in New Mexico. If the temporary closure period has shown us anything, it’s that our creative educators and school support staff are committed to meeting the academic, social and emotional needs of our students in challenging circumstances.”  

High school credits will be awarded based on flexible approaches, including completion of work, demonstration of competency for course completion and expanded equivalency like work experience. The Public Education Department also recommends schools move to pass/no credit rather than grades during this period.

“While it can be difficult to view the current situation with anything beyond anxiety and apprehension, we believe the wide-reaching consequences of this moment present a tremendous opportunity to transform education to serve all students, especially students who have traditionally been furthest from opportunity,” said Deputy Secretary Kara Bobroff. 

“The decisions we make today are made with all of our students in mind. During this unprecedented time, we will continue to build into the public education system healing opportunities for students, families, communities and all New Mexicans,” she said.

Public colleges and universities are not included in the closure order, but most have either extended their spring breaks, moved classes online or both.

School-based health centers, educational programming for youth in facilities, and licensed child care facilities (centers and homes) serving workers whose jobs have been deemed essential will continue operating.

The closing plan includes these provisions:


Students with special needs will receive all feasible supports and accommodations that can be delivered while maintaining safe social-distancing. School districts must continue to support the transition of children from early intervention into preschool special education. Schools offering behavioral health services will remain open for that purpose.


Individual districts will design measures by which seniors can demonstrate eligibility for graduation. Those measures could include testing, completing a series of assignments, achieving a set score on a college entrance exam or demonstrating applied work experience. Schools will be required to identify and support students in danger of not being able to graduate.

High school seniors will have until June 19 to demonstrate eligibility, and those who fail to do so will be offered credit recovery in the summer; they can also appeal to their local school board or to the secretary. No student will be denied graduation for lack of access to demonstrate competency.

Actual graduation ceremonies will be postponed or held virtually, depending on the prevailing public health order at the time.

Many high school seniors will have completed a college entrance exam already; additionally, many higher education institutions are expected to waive that requirement, and both the ACT and College Board are considering offering those exams in the summer.


Advanced placement exams will be offered online and will be limited to material students should have covered up to March. Accommodations will be made for those students who need access to technology to take the tests. 


School personnel and contractors will remain on call and continue being paid as usual. Districts have already received guidance on activities employees can continue performing during the closure. Bus contractors are encouraged to continue operating bus routes to deliver food and hard-copy lessons. Special education and other service contractors are encouraged to provide virtual services, collaborate with general education teachers and maintain documentation.


Every New Mexico school district has a plan to continue providing childhood nutrition during this period. You can see those plans here.

The Public Education Department is also seeking permission to distribute Electronic Benefits Transfer cards that would allow qualifying families to purchase meals with their free breakfast/lunch allotment.


With schools closed, some children may be more vulnerable to abuse and neglect in their homes.  In addition, teachers, school administrators and other school staff are often the first to notice changes in behavior and appearance that may indicate abuse or neglect. New Mexicans must fill this void and be extra aware of the safety and well-being of children they know and those in their neighborhoods. Any citizen can report suspected child abuse or neglect by dialing #SAFE from their cell phone or by calling 1-855-333-SAFE from a landline. 


The Behavioral Health Division of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department is working with the New Mexico Human Services Department and managed care organizations to help providers and families create digital access to mental health services for children and youth. 


Tribes, pueblos and nations are located in some of the most rural parts of New Mexico and often experience extreme health care provider shortages. The governor and state agencies are collaborating with tribal leaders to support their needs in these times. 

These state agencies will continue working with the tribes, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Indian Education to support students who attend BIE and tribally run schools: Indian Affairs Department, Public Education Department, Children, Youth and Families Department and Early Childhood Education and Care Department.


AFT New Mexico Press Release on School Closure:


American Federation of Teachers New Mexico
Respond to Extended School Closures

Governor and Public Education Department Order New Mexico Schools Close


March 27, 2020                                                  

Contact: John Dyrcz

Albuquerque – American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Stephanie Ly released the following statement:

“While this is a developing event, we believe the decision to keep New Mexico schools closed through the end of the current academic year is not only the right decision, it also represents Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s continuing commitment to the health and safety of New Mexicans, especially our students, their families, and our hard working public education professionals. The spread and extent of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic in New Mexico is yet to be determined, and the health and safety of our citizens is paramount at this time.

“Over the last two weeks, the New Mexico Public Education Department and AFT New Mexico have worked together to ensure everything in our collective power has been done to keep communities fed, cared for, and have instituted as many learn-from-home opportunities for our students. We expect the coming weeks will be no different as we work together to expand these necessary services. As we shift to a full-time learn-from-home model, we will continue to work to provide high-quality services with equity.

“We want to thank Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham and Secretary Ryan Stewart for their courage in making this difficult decision, and for their thoughtful approach to solving the many challenges in front of each of us. We will continue to work with them and help to provide the best possible education to our students during this unprecedented time, while maintaining the highest levels of safety for students, their families, our communities, and dedicated public educators at all levels across New Mexico.”


Memo and Resources Highlights on Meal Services from NM PED:

March 27, 2020


TO: Superintendents, Charter School Directors, Food Service Directors, Food Service Contractors, Food Service Authorities                                   

FROM: Deputy Secretary Katarina Sandoval                                                     

RE: Meal Service During Extended School Closure              

Per the Governor’s Executive Order issued this morning, students will not physically attend school for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. However, schools will continue to provide breakfast and lunch to students during all weeks of school closure, just as you have already been doing since March 16th. We appreciate and thank you for ensuring that New Mexico’s children have access to food during these challenging times.

Length of Service

Given the extended school closure, you should provide meals from now until your last scheduled instructional day for the 2019-2020 school year. If you are scheduled to be on any holiday breaks between now and your last scheduled instructional day, please plan on providing students with several days’ worth of meals on the day before the holiday break. Thank you.

Updated Feeding Plans

Please continue to send us any changes/updates to your district/charter feeding plans that include the days/dates, location, and hours during which time your district/charter school distributes meals. We have posted this information on the New Mexico.gov website found HERE.

USDA Waivers

- Nationwide Meal Pattern Waiver: Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has provided nationwide approval for States to locally waive specific meal pattern requirements as needed to support access to nutritious meals when certain foods are not available due to the coronavirus.

- Nationwide Parent/Guardian Meal Pickup Waiver: FNS is allowing States approved for non-congregate feeding to waive the rule preventing parents and guardians from picking up meals for their children, as long as they protect accountability and integrity. Given this waiver, you may now distribute meals to parents and guardians of students without the student being physically present. However, USDA does require each district/charter school to submit a plan to PED that demonstrates how you will ensure that parents/guardians are picking up meals for enrolled students. For example, parents/guardians could present their child’s school-issued ID, report card, or other school documents as proof of enrollment. Please note that if parents/guardians are at home caring for sick family members or disabled children, or are at home ill themselves, they may send other family members to pick up meals on their behalf. These family members will still have to present proof of enrollment for the eligible children in order to receive meals.

Meal Counts

Please continue to report your daily meal counts through April 6th. A PED employee will continue to call your district every day to obtain daily meal counts for breakfast and lunch. After April 6th, we will move to weekly counts; details forthcoming.

Food Distribution Flexibilities

·      Meals may be served to all children 18 and under in the household (or 18 and older if they are still enrolled in a public K-12 school) if at least one child attends the school in extended closure.        

·      You may distribute meals for more than one day at a time, at a maximum of five (5) days’ worth of meals.

·      Districts and charter schools at which at least 50% of students are eligible for free/reduced lunch will be reimbursed 100% of their costs for the meals served to students during the closure. Please note that the PED, together with CYFD, has applied for a waiver to the USDA for this requirement, and we are waiting for their formal response. In the interim, PED is re-evaluating certain schools’ eligibility using a variety of socio-economic factors.

·      Separate meal counts and records must be maintained for meals served under a COVID-19 waiver.

Health & Safety Concerns

We strongly encourage you to use the resources found here http://www.lunchassist.org/covid-19.html that provide best practices when handling food during COVID-19 closures. Please share these with your staff members; thank you.

We know that many districts and charter schools are concerned about the possibility of contagion being spread through the provision of meals. Please note that per the CDC, schools are not expected to screen children, students, or staff to identify cases of COVID-19. Please see here for CDC guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/schools-faq.html. Please note that we have confirmed with NMPSIA that if a claimant can prove a direct line of contagion, then there will be NMPSIA coverage.


We will begin distribution of masks and gloves, based on the requests that each district reported to PED, on Monday, March 30th. Because there is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) nationally, we ask that you use these masks and gloves judiciously. A PED employee will call your district directly to inform you of the delivery time.

Other Helpful Links and Guides:

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding School Closure (NM PED: March 27, 2020)

AFT President Randi Weingarten’s Push for Capstone Projects as a Demonstration of Competency

More on this Proposal from AFT President Weingarten

Supporting Students with Disabilities During the COVID-19 Pandemic aims to provide some implementation advice for educators and staff supporting special needs students. While IDEA ensures the availability of a free and appropriate public education, delivering these services to more than 6.5 million eligible recipients today brings unprecedented challenges.

Distance Learning Tips offers some practical guidance for teachers and others embarking on an often unexpected journey into distance learning. This resource was initially developed by and is adapted from the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals.

Both new resources can be found HERE.

Navigating Student Debt Issues During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Guidelines for Navigating the COVID-19 Pandemic in Higher Education Settings

COVID-19 and Transportation Safety (from Share My Lesson/AFT)

A compilation of Mental Health and Wellness Resources Compiled by Los Alamos Federation of School Employees (AFT NM Local #4902)

Resources Previously Shared:

AFT COVID-19 Information and Resources: CLICK HERE

AFT Tips on Self-Care and Mental Wellness: CLICK HERE

AFT Share My Lesson on COVID-19 (Resources in English and Spanish): CLICK HERE

NM Department of Health COVID-19 Facts and FAQs: CLICK HERE



NM Workforce Solutions: CLICK HERE

Each of these pages are being updated on a daily or near daily basis based on available and factual information. We encourage you to check them frequently.