Once again, Santa Fe Public Schools and the local teachers union have updated their agreement regarding in-person instruction as the district prepares to fully reopen its campuses.

This version of the deal, reached Thursday, makes clear that all teachers who are entirely vaccinated or have refused the vaccine must return to their classrooms for the first day of the district’s full reopening, April 6. The agreement also stipulates teachers still waiting for their second shot will have until April 19 to return to campus.

Hundreds of teachers and staff who received accommodations in the fall allowing them to work remotely due to medical concerns may ask for a review.

The agreement includes a one-time $1,000 retention payment to union members by no later than April 30, pending approval by the school board at its April 1 meeting. Educational assistants will be paid $50 per day, in addition to their hourly pay, if they supervise students in a classroom alone.

The latest agreement supersedes a memorandum of understanding the district and the National Education Association-Santa Fe reached in February, which required teachers and staff to return to schools after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. The update came in response to the state’s announcement in March that in-person instruction at public and charter schools should start by April 5.

That Monday is a holiday at Santa Fe Public Schools, so the full reopening was delayed by a day.

Superintendent Veronica García said she was thrilled with the agreement and feels confident the district will be more than ready for the influx of students returning to campuses around the city.

A recent parent survey suggested about 50 percent to 60 percent of students will opt for in-person instruction for the last weeks of the school year, she added.

“On the sixth, we will be open and ready for business for whomever wants to come back,” García said.

Grace Mayer, president of NEA-Santa Fe, did not return phone messages seeking comment on the deal.

In a joint statement with García, Mayer said educators are eager for in-person instruction and finally seeing their students face to face.

“As professionals, we have met the many challenges of remote learning and will continue to persevere through the new circumstances that lay ahead of us,” Mayer said.

García said the district might rely on a few substitute teachers at some schools initially because teachers who are not fully vaccinated might not report until the later date.

“Some schools might need four or five subs,” she said. “Some may not need any. They can cover [classes] with their staff.”

More than 300 teachers and staff members received accommodations to work from home because of medical conditions that put them at higher risk of a severe case of COVID-19. Under the district’s new deal with the union, they can request a review based on guidance provided by the state Public Education Department.

García declined to comment on state guidance or advice from the district’s counsel on the issue. She said Santa Fe Public Schools will review each request for a teacher or staff member to continue working remotely and make determinations on a case-by-case basis.

A letter from state Public Education Secretary Ryan Stewart to public school administrators March 16 defined high-risk teachers and staff members as individuals who are 65 and older, as well as those who suffer from the following underlying medical conditions that place them at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19:

  • Cancer
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Down syndrome
  • Heart conditions such as heart failure, coronary artery disease or cardiomyopathy
  • Weakened immune system from an organ transplant

A body mass index greater than 40

  • Pregnancy
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Type 2 diabetes

The letter also stated high-risk staff who previously were granted alternate or remote work assignments may be required to return to campus as soon as two weeks after the final dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has been made available to them. Alternate work assignments might be available, however, for those teachers under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and they may request leave under the Family Medical Leave Act if they are unable to perform duties due to a serious medical condition or the condition of an eligible family member. Public Education Department spokeswoman Judy Gibbs Robinson said districts and charter schools may still choose to provide accommodations for high-risk employees.

García said between one-third and half of teachers and staff with accommodations have indicated they will return to campus. Some of them were swayed by receiving a vaccine.

According to data from the state Department of Health, more than 85 percent of teachers have been at least partially inoculated or are scheduled for a vaccination.

“I think there are people who got an accommodation because of age, but now that they’re vaccinated, they no longer feel they need it,” García said.

(13) comments

Sabine Strohem

I wish all teachers and staff, as well as families the best. We have a long road ahead of us. 🙏🏻🙏🏻

Richard Reinders

We need a voucher system so parents have options and are not held hostage.

Peter Romero

Just as biased as this paper. Your welcome !

Alan Lucero

"Your welcome". Just wondering why you're using the possessive form of "you". Are you indicating ownership of the welcome? I think the public library offers literacy classes.

Alan Lucero

Yes, this was a mutually agreed upon document (the referenced Agreement). Yes, the District and the Union are pleased with the outcome. Yes the District and the Union advocated during the Legislative session both for increased academic instruction over the summer and during next school year; the Legislature agreed and funding is in place for both. It is appalling that such a large number of commenters display neither a basic ability to digest the contents of a simple article nor a grasp of the contents of this year's legislative activity (Summaries were posted in this and other publications, while full legislation text is readily available. Senate bill 40 here, as example: https://www.nmlegis.gov/Sessions/21%20Regular/bills/senate/SB0040.pdf). It's a pity that lack of understanding of a topic is not more of a social inhibitor to speaking out publicly about that topic.

Peter Romero

David, please forgive James. He was probably educated in the Union state of New Mexico.

David Ford

Which only means HE wasn't paying attention. You are being too obvious Peter with your uniformed bias.

David Ford

Boy, as James pointed out, you right wingers and GQP'ers need to work on your reading skills. This article refers to an AGREEMENT, in which both the district and the union came to a mutually agreeable solution that involved BOTH sides. And while you are at, your ingrained bias against their union (in fact any union probably), refuses to acknowledge that ultimately their union is pro-children, pro-parent, and pro-public education. American Unions are responsible for MOST of the benefits you enjoy from your employers and obviously take for granted. Might want to bone up on that history while you're at it....

Elizabeth Jones

If this were really about the kids, they’d already be back in school.... so spare me the pro-kid BS. The teachers union needs to be broken; it has done nothing to help the kids in this state and protects really horrible teachers who should have been fired a long time ago.

Peter Romero

If the unions are calling all the shots, why do we have school boards and an education department.

Stephen Hauf

Should school boards and administrators collaborate with teachers ?

"The Unions" are teachers. 36 years ago when I was a first year teacher - my first year of teaching would have been my last if it had not been for some professional development in classroom management provided by my local NEA agency.

Elizabeth Jones

In person learning for 4 weeks? *clap.... clap.... clap* That will make up for a lot 🙄 what about extending the school year for the 30-40% of kids who never even showed up to remote learning? What’s going to happen to these kids?

James Cantu

I don't recall the article mentioning that this plan was for "making up" anything. This is just information regarding re-entry to schools. If you are looking for New Mexico Legislative or Santa Fe plans regarding lost-learning due to covid you may want to seek another article.

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