The latest information from the state Public Education Department, with school about to start Thursday for secondary students and Aug. 9 for elementary students, requires everyone in elementary schools, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask while:
• in a school building;
• on school transportation; or
• at an indoor school-sponsored event.
Secondary school students, staff and volunteers who are fully vaccinated and provide documentation of full vaccination are not required to wear masks as of Friday.
Secondary school students, staff and volunteers who are unvaccinated or don’t provide documentation of full vaccination are required to wear a mask while:
• in a school building;
• on school transportation; and
• at an indoor school-sponsored event.
Masks are not required outdoors.
On July 26, American Federation of Teachers New Mexico President Whitney Holland released the following statement in Albuquerque: “Today’s release of updated New Mexico Public Education Department guidelines for COVID-19 safety protocols correctly keeps a focus on proven strategies for combating the spread of coronavirus in our places of learning.”
She said the union appreciated outgoing PED Secretary Ryan Stewart and his team including “educational stakeholders” in the development of the guidelines.
“These protocols correctly acknowledge this virus is still present in our communities and will continue to be present until all able New Mexicans have access to an approved vaccine,” Holland said. “These guidelines are especially important for our youngest learners as they wait for an age-appropriate vaccine to be widely available.
“We, like all New Mexicans, are excited to be returning to full, in-person instruction this fall. There is no question that in-person learning for our students is the gold standard for instruction.”
Holland urged everyone who could to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some people were unhappy with the mask mandate, including surgeon and State Sen. Gregg Schemedes, R-District 19.
“Gov. Lujan Grisham is forcing kindergartners to wear masks all day even though COVID-19 is not a pediatric disease,” he said in a press release. “Her policy embarrasses and shames unvaccinated children and fails to accommodate COVID recovered students who have no need for vaccination. This is a virus that represents less of a threat to children than does seasonal influenza.
“With no local autonomy to account for regional needs, the governor is sending a clear signal that her concern is not with the wellbeing of our children, but rather, with maintaining her grip on our state.”
Observer editor Argen Marie Duncan contributed to this article.

Gary Herron | Observer staff writer