Rio Rancho Public Schools’ stay-at-home learning plan emphasizes emotional health and ensuring that seniors graduate.

With public schools closed for the rest of the academic year, RRPS leaders explained the online education plan during a video-conference Board of Education special meeting Tuesday. RRPS online teaching starts Monday.

“If you look at what’s been done in just a short period of time, it’s nothing short of literally amazing,” said Superintendent Sue Cleveland.

Conversion to digital teaching usually takes a year, but RRPS has done it in a few weeks. Plus, teachers, like many other people, often have children at home and are struggling to balance their family’s needs with their professional life, she said.

Graduating seniors

Secondary School Improvement Officer Renee Saucedo said RRPS has about 1,200 seniors, and around 90 percent of them were on track to graduate by the end of the third quarter of the academic year, when schools closed.

“So what we have to do is make sure that other 10 percent is going to make it,” she said.

Seniors on track to graduate can finish their coursework by May 8. Those at risk of not graduating were already doing credit-recovery courses online when schools closed and have through June to finish, Saucedo continued.

“The large majority of students will be able to complete the full 26 credits,” she said.

About 60 students need to pass one or more core-subject competency assessments. Saucedo said they can use the Edgenuity online program to do so, but other options will be considered to demonstrate competency if a senior can’t pass Edgenuity tests.

“We’re really just working with counselors on a student-by-student basis,” she said.

This year, seniors’ third-quarter grades will make up 80 percent of the semester grade on their transcripts, with them having the fourth quarter to raise those grades if necessary. Final exams will make up the rest of the semester grade.

Cleveland said seniors have to take responsibility, too.

“They still have to do their work and be part of these last few weeks,” she said.

She also said plans for graduation ceremonies are on hold.

“I will tell you this is one of the things that make your heart ache for the kids,” she said.

If the public-health order forbidding mass gatherings is lifted before seniors start heading off to their next steps, Cleveland said, the district will look at holding commencements.

Online learning

“Our main focus is on the social-emotional support for students,” Executive Director for Elementary Curriculum and Instruction Elizabeth Jacome said.

She and other planners want lessons to be accessible and relevant.

Jacome said parents weren’t expected to re-create school at home, but to help children maintain skills.

Executive Director for Secondary Curriculum and Instruction LaJauna Coleman said RRPS is well-positioned to take on online learning.

“We’ve spent the last five years preparing as a future-ready district,” Coleman said, pointing to the use of Chromebooks in classrooms and efforts to integrate technology in education.

She said teachers would give online direct instruction every weekday in various ways.

The Public Education Department set requirements ranging from 30 minutes a day for pre-kindergartners to three hours, or about 25 minutes per class, daily for middle and high school students.

In addition, teachers will assign work for students to do independently.

For middle and high school students, Coleman said, the curriculum is compacted to deliver the bare necessities, with instruction secondary to supporting students’ and families’ social-emotional health.

She’s stressing that secondary teachers check in with students to keep them motivated.

At the elementary level, Elementary School Improvement Officer Janna Chenault said the focus is connecting with students and setting consistent schedules. Jacome said there’s a lot of flexibility in delivering lessons.

She also said if teachers notice students not being engaged, they’ll reach out to the family.

Cleveland said she expected students would need remedial teaching next school year.

Technology aspect

Executive Director of Information Technology Paul Romero said RRPS is one of the few school districts with a cloud-based filter, blocking bad internet sites and tracking where students go online with school devices, even from home.

Romero and his staff started distributing 3,000 Chromebooks last week, and are partnering with Sparklight to get internet connections to a little more than 500 families. Techs are assigned to each school to handle technology problems families may encounter.

“We want to resolve every ticket the same day,” Romero said.

Board member Wynne Coleman said she was concerned about students behaving inappropriately in online interactions.

LaJuana Coleman said teachers would set behavioral standards and be the last ones to leave Google Meet interactions. Also, safeguards could lock down chats if something inappropriate happened.

“We’re hopeful that students are going to rise to the occasion,” she said.

Jacome said teachers have been instructed not to hold one-on-one digital meetings with students, but to work with groups, get another adult involved or post pre-recorded material. The same goes with speech-language pathologists and the various kinds of therapists.

Other services

Executive Director of Special Services Jerry Reeder said teachers were calling parents of special education students to amend individual education plans. Ancillary staff, such as occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists, plan to deliver their services in new ways.

“Services are going to look different for every kid,” he said.

The district won’t be able to help some students who require intensive services because public-health orders prevent school employees from going into homes, Reeder said. Those children will get extra services to compensate next fall.

Cleveland said she expected a lot of litigation to determine what compensatory services would be required.

Executive Director of Student Services Tonna Burgos said counselors and nurses have pages on each school’s website where students could ask for help. Counselors will reach out to students they’ve been working with, she said, and nurses will make sure vaccinations are up to date, arrange for parents to pick up students’ medications and run online CPR classes.