Santa Fe school board discusses COVID-19 guidelines, pandemic funding | Education

Some members of the Santa Fe school board expressed concerns Thursday that the district’s COVID-19 guidelines don’t go far enough. 

Board member Sarah Boses said the district should notify families when a student in their child’s class is symptomatic or tests positive for the coronavirus. 

“This is a case where more information is better and more reassuring,” Boses said.

Principals inform parents when someone who has been on campus has contracted the virus, but families remain unaware if their child was in the same classroom with the sick student or staff member unless their child is identified as a “close contact.”

People sent home with symptoms aren’t required to get tested for the virus.

Some board members said revealing more information on cases and symptomatic students could cause bullying.

Board member Lorraine Price said the district should require school staff be vaccinated.

Up to 95 percent of district staff are vaccinated, Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez said. The vaccine rate for teachers was unclear.

Chavez said mandating vaccines could make it more difficult for the district to fill teacher vacancies. More than 30 positions remain open districtwide.

District officials also presented their plan for more than $20 million in federal pandemic relief funds Thursday night.

The district would set aside $8.7 million for academic interventions, such as extended learning programs, credit recovery and an “enhancement” of the district’s preschool program. 

Around $11.3 million would go toward staff recruiting efforts; retention stipends for teachers; more professional development opportunities; a COVID-19 coordinator; and investments in the district’s online school, Desert Sage Academy.

Chavez told the board 187 students are enrolled at Desert Sage this year. 

The district will submit its application plan for the federal funds to the state Public Education Department next week and expects to gain approval in the fall. The funds will sunset Sept. 30, 2024.

The district held town halls and hosted a survey ahead of releasing its funding plan and will continue to seek community feedback as the funds are doled out.

“It is nice to see an injection of money into a system that has been emaciated over the years, and certainly the past year,” school board President Kate Noble said. 

In other news, Chavez said the district is seeking federal funds to install Wi-Fi on school buses. The board also moved to terminate city water easements that are disrupting construction of a Santa Fe High School administrative building. 

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