Although it is not an agenda item for tomorrow’s virtual 5:30 p.m. meeting of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education, there is an online petition being circulated by parents recommending online-only learning not be extended through the end of December.

The petition began after the Albuquerque Public Schools Board of Education voted 6-1 at its Aug. 19 meeting to extend the virtual sessions through the end of the semester.

The RRPS board decided that students will begin returning to the classrooms Tuesday, Sept. 6 — although that date varies, according to last names in middle schools and the high schools. Some students will return to the classrooms Thursday, Sept. 8.

The petition, which may be found on Facebook, originated by Alicia Hinrichs, states, “We, as the parents of Rio Rancho students, want the school board to hear us loud and clear: You do not have to follow every decision that APS makes.

“We want you to move forward with the proposed hybrid model, so long as the governor’s public health order allows.

“Our kids deserve an in-person education, and we are confident that RRPS has a great plan to move forward to do so. Our younger students, especially, need face-to-face instruction in order to create and solidify those essential building blocks of reading and writing, which cannot be done effectively via a computer screen.

“Allowing the entire semester to be online will only widen the learning gap for students. You will find many, many families, who are able to, will pull their kids from the public school system and home-school, resulting in lost funding. Those who are unable to or choose not to will continue to have a less than optimal school year, as distance learning — no matter how skilled and wonderful the teacher — is not up to par with in-person learning.

“We also want to remind you of students who may be suffering at home for various reasons, and that their safe space at school has already been taken from them for almost six months.”

Amanda Galbraith

Board of Education President Amanda Galbraith told the Observer that changing the current plan “is not on our agenda … (but) an emergency meeting could come up.”

Not anticipating following APS actions, Galbraith suggested that parents send their petition to the governor’s office.

3 APS campuses shut down

Amid three recent school shutdowns due to COVID-19, the APS Board of Education decided students will continue remote learning through the end of this semester, with some exceptions, namely students with special needs.

Board President David Peercy emphasized that can be revised in the future, if needed.

The board revisited its re-entry strategy following a discussion earlier this month in which members made it clear they weren’t fully behind a plan to start in-person classes in September.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham had previously announced classes would take place remotely through at least Sept. 7, and has expressed hope that most elementary students will be able to return to classrooms after Labor Day under a hybrid model, citing declining statewide rates of coronavirus infection.

At the Aug. 19 APS meeting, multiple speakers, including teachers, asked the board to continue with remote learning for longer than the state’s timeline. According to data presented to the board, 56.3 percent of people who responded to a survey were “very uncomfortable” with their child returning to a school building.

Monica Armenta, an APS spokeswoman, said the three schools closed for at least three days for “deep cleaning,” adding that the district is following state Department of Health protocol. She did not know how or when the employees tested positive and, citing privacy concerns, would not say in what capacity they worked at the schools.