The new Joe Harris Elementary at 2100 10th St. is ready to go when the students head to school in September. Courtesy photo.

Members of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education seemed happy Monday evening when they realized for the first time in awhile, their meeting wouldn’t last four to five hours.

In fact, the July 27 virtual session lasted less than an hour.

Superintendent Sue Cleveland told the board that, with registration concluded, nearly one-third of the district’s enrollment will be educated virtually for at least the first semester in the 2020-21 school year. The number she gave — 6,100 — is more than three times the number (1,832) she gave at the board’s July 20 meeting, and about a third of the district’s total enrollment.

The literal “return to school” for hybrid students in grades K-5 is set for Sept. 8, but is subject to change depending on public-health orders. Middle school and high school students, depending on where their surnames fall alphabetically, return Sept. 8 and 10.

She also went over the re-entry plan for RRPS, describing how Google Classroom works for some students and Edgenuity is better for others. Middle school students, virtual and hybrid, will learn via Edgenuity, while elementary students will be on the Google Classroom platform.

High school students will have their choice of one or the other. But, they should be aware, the two platforms cannot be merged and only Google Classroom allows for more activities, such as band and JROTC.

Special education students will be provided for based on their individualized education program and “levels of need,” which vary by student.

Cleveland also had some bad news for the board: The state Public Education Department reduced its allocation to the RRPS transportation department by $169,210. She noted that regardless of how many students ride a bus, a number substantially reduced in the pandemic, the costs — gas, oil, depreciation, etc. — remain the same.

The unit value, or money per student from the state, was expected to be known by Aug. 1, she said.

The board also gave their thanks to the Sandoval County Commission and the county’s emergency manager, Seth Muller, for a donation of personal protective equipment — masks, face shields, gloves and gowns — for district staff and students.

And Independence High School Principal Sue Carley told the board of two $10,000 (maximum) grants. One is for the “Dare to Be You” program, which emphasizes healthy living, avoiding risky behaviors, avoiding cyber-bullying, etc. The other is from the county’s DWI program, which enables students in media-literacy classes to devise anti-DWI public-service announcements and billboards to be seen throughout the county.

“These are both wonderful programs,” said board member Noreen Scott.

The board’s next regularly scheduled virtual meeting will be Monday, Aug. 10, at 5:30 p.m.

2 fewer students

In one of the three public comments received by the board via email, a mother of two RRPS students — Sheryl Wadin — touted the school district as a whole, but lamented that virtual learning for her son didn’t pan out the way she had hoped. She was planning to home-school her son and daughter in the coming school year.

“We completely disagree with the direction our state government and education has advocated,” her email read. “It is therefore with a heavy heart that we have decided not to send our children to RRPS this year. We will be home-schooling them with materials that will challenge them academically. … They will be missing out on the wealth of expertise, experience and passion of the teachers, therapists and staff that they have received thus far though RRPS.

“Our hope is that in the near future, fear surrounding a virus will not overrule all other important aspects of life that young, developing children desperately need.”