Rio Rancho Public Schools

Members of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education got updates on the 2021 legislative session, as well as a look ahead to an expected special session in June, and heard a report on absenteeism for the pandemic school year of 2020-21.
Janna Chenault, elementary school improvement officer, said the overall absence rate is 18.9 percent, with 29.5 percent of those students regarded as “chronic” absentees — missing 10 or more days. Looking back to the pre-pandemic school year of 2019-20, those rates, respectively, were 5.39 percent and 13.37 percent. Regardless, capturing attendance rates in a virtual setting was problematic, done basically through participation in Google Meets.
Chenault also talked about ways to improve attendance in the future. She said attendance rates for the 2018-19 school year were comparable to this year’s, but she later mentioned recording attendance was more “relaxed” that school year.
Superintendent Sue Cleveland noted that the district has “lost” 900 students this school year, surmising many of them were probably absent much of the time, thus “skewing” the numbers. Fewer than a dozen of those 900 missing students have yet to be found, with Student Services contacting them to try to return them to RRPS.
Renee Saucedo, secondary school improvement officer, said Engage New Mexico works to intervene, with encouragement and support, to keep high school students in school. That includes tutoring and providing community resources — “all different kinds of opportunities for families,” she said.
“They’ve been a wonderful partner to have,” Saucedo added.
She noted Engage New Mexico contacts individual schools when they can help — in this case, helping a family get WiFi access. She also gave an update on failure rates, and said summer school will be offered without charge to students in grades 9-12.
In her introductory comments to the board, Cleveland said, “We definitely have students who are behind” and the district’s goal is to help them catch up.
“The single-greatest challenge we face this year is attendance. … There is hope,” she said.
The board also congratulated Rio Rancho High School junior Luciano Mendoza for his work to organize a SkillsUSA chapter at his school. Not only was he elected chapter president, but he won the bronze award at the virtual state competition that involved simulated shop work, repairing vehicles and more.
Mendoza told the board he hopes to work in diesel motors after graduation.
The board meets again Monday at 5:30 p.m.
Included on that agenda is Cleveland’s “State of the District” report. The meeting may be viewed virtually; visit rrps.net to see it.

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Gary Herron | Observer staff writer