On Friday, Rio Rancho Elementary faculty and students celebrated the school’s recent listing as one of ESPN’s Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools for 2022. It was the only elementary school on the list. Rio Rancho Elementary was recognized for its inclusivity measures pertaining to school sports that includes all learners including those with intellectual disabilities. One of the people at Rio Rancho Elementary to celebrate the day was Sen. Martin Heinrich. “I’m here today because what you’re doing is super cool,” Heinrich told a group of Rio Rancho Elementary students.
The state Department of Health explained the cancellation of COVID-19 events for educators and school staff by saying the state was not in the part of Phase 1B where essential frontline workers could be vaccinated. A vaccination clinic for Rio Rancho Public Schools and others’ staff was scheduled for Friday, but those who had vaccinations scheduled at the event were informed that the DOH had said it could not go forward. “Everyone’s disappointed and we have had some tears and people have been really distraught over this,” RRPS superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland told NM Political Report on Thursday. Cleveland said the school district was informed on Wednesday night by DOH that the event, which would have vaccinated 1,800 school employees, could not go forward. And after asking for a reconsideration, they were told no again on Thursday.
The New Mexico State Legislature approved $170,000 for menstrual products for some New Mexico public and charter schools for Fiscal Year 2021. But because of the recent state budget crisis, the legislature trimmed the state budget for menstrual products in the schools to $141,190 during the recent special legislative session, said Deborah Martinez, media relations coordinator for New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED). This will affect 57 schools and school districts in the state. The grant awards vary, ranging from $500 allocated to the Albuquerque Sign Language Academy to $26,963 provided to Rio Rancho Public Schools. Martinez said NMPED hasn’t sent out the new award notifications yet to the schools affected.
The City of Rio Rancho and Rio Rancho Public Schools will shut down Monday in anticipation of President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in the Albuquerque suburb. City officials announced Monday that while all public safety services will remain available, City of Rio Rancho offices, which are near the Santa Ana Star Center where Trump will appear, will be closed. The city says the rally “could attract several thousand people” to the area in northwest Rio Rancho. And the city’s schools will also be closed that day. Rio Rancho Public Schools Superintendent Sue V. Cleveland said the decision was not taken lightly.
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education called on school districts around the country to include transgender students in Title IX policies in a letter sent Friday. The eight page letter outlines how school districts should address issues surrounding transgender students, including in bathroom and athletic facilities. “A school may provide separate facilities on the basis of sex, but must allow transgender students access to such facilities consistent with their gender identity,” the letter read. “A school may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity or to use individual-user facilities when other students are not required to do so.”
The letter also said that schools can provide other options for students who prefer to use a separate facility for extra privacy. Representatives from Albuquerque and Rio Rancho Public Schools did not respond to messages from NM Political Report before press time, but a spokeswoman for Las Cruces Public Schools said they have not received the letter from the federal government.
Some school districts are still facing a shortage of teachers just days before the start of the new school year. Both Rio Rancho Public Schools and Albuquerque Public Schools have had a deficit of teachers in general as well as special education. Teacher’s unions as well as a representative of APS admitted that part of the problem may stem from a higher demand on teachers and inadequate compensation. With most schools in the state preparing to begin classes in a matter of days, New Mexico Political Report reached out to three large school districts in New Mexico to find out how many positions are still vacant. Last month APS held a job fair in order to fill teacher positions.