March 12, 2020

State closes public schools for three weeks beginning Monday amid coronavirus spread

Albuquerque Public Schools

All New Mexico public schools will close for three weeks, effective Monday, March 16.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, the New Mexico Public Education Department and the New Mexico Department of Health made the announcement Thursday evening.

The governor said the state made the announcement Thursday to give parents and students time to prepare for the change.

The governor will hold a press conference on Friday morning with more information.

“We will be informing the public of additional measures that the state will be taking to ease the burden on families and educators and ensure that children continue to be fed and cared for,” Lujan Grisham said.

This includes time that many schools will have held their week-long spring break.

The move is the latest in drastic measures brought by the state to stem the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a type of coronavirus, in the state. Earlier on Thursday, the state implemented a ban on “mass gatherings” of over 100 people. 

Already, six people in New Mexico have tested positive for COVID-19. All six presumptive positive cases, which have been sent to the federal Centers for Disease Control for confirmation, were announced in the last two days.

PED Secretary Ryan Stewart called the move “a proactive measure to limit the potential community spread of COVID-19” in a statement announcing the closure.

“We have seen other states take this measure after they have experienced community spread of this virus. New Mexico is going to be proactive and do everything we can to prevent the potential spread of the virus,” Stewart said. “I have been in communication with all of our superintendents about this proactive step, and we are all going to work together to address this public health challenge.”

Half an hour before the announcement, Albuquerque Public Schools—the state’s largest school district—sent a district-wide email saying they were not closing.

Multiple other locations and states have closed public schools. Ohio and Maryland also announced closures on Thursday, both also beginning on Monday.

Many colleges have also went to online-only courses.

Earlier in the week, the private middle and high school Albuquerque Academy announced it would hold online-only courses.

The ban on gatherings did not initially include public schools.