EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — New Mexico school districts are struggling with a surge of COVID-19 cases, including here in the Borderland. School districts said more students, teachers and staff are out sick with the virus, or in quarantine from exposure.
In response, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham called on the National Guard to serve as substitutes for schools in need.
Borderland school districts, Las Cruces Public Schools and Gadsden ISD said this could possibly be helpful if to the schools at some point.
“We are grateful for this resource to make sure our students can stay in school,” Kelly Jameson, the spokesperson for LCPS said.
Jameson said the district was still discussing the possibility and details but said the district would notify parents if they did use troops as substitutes. In the meantime, she said LCPS has been recruiting substitutes.
“We are fortunate that HR has worked hard to recruit subs onboarding 30 a week to make sure we can deploy those to classrooms as teachers are getting sick,” Jameson said.
Meanwhile, at Gadsden ISD, some classes shifted online for several days in order to mitigate the spread of the virus.
“I think it’s a good idea, on any given day we could use 20-30 subs,” GISD Superintendent Travis Dempsey said. “It’s like a house of cards, if you don’t have enough staff to supervise students, you can have zero cases of students but if you have all your staff out then obviously you can’t hold school.”
Mary Parr-Sanchez, the president of the New Mexico Education Association, said it was a good call from to governor to call on the National Guard.
“You deploy the National Guard when there is a crisis and I would say we have a crisis in New Mexico schools right now,” Parr-Sanchez said.
She added there has already been a growing shortage of educators before the pandemic.
“We began the year with almost 2,000 teacher vacancies across the state and it’s only increased since that time that with the pandemic as an overlayer, we are in a crisis,” Parr-Sanchez said.
If schools decide to use National Guard troops, school districts said they would first notify parents. Troops who choose to volunteer must take a brief class and pass a background check.