Doña Ana County and Las Cruces Public Schools saw an increase in positive Covid-19 cases this past week, which unfortunately, has moved Doña Ana County from green to red according to the state’s Covid-19 map. As a red county, we are not eligible to return to a hybrid model of instruction, but in order to return to the classroom in January, being a green county is the first step.

Every day I ask myself one question: What is it going to take for our schools to re-open for all students in the spring? As we start to bring back students in small groups, we have refined our procedures. The Special Education Department developed a re-entry planning document that is now being used districtwide. We have asked school safety teams to review their building specific plans for cleaning, entry and exit, protective barriers, bathroom use, hallway traffic, food distribution, health services, classroom set up and other required protocols for re-entry. We have evaluated our HVAC systems, ordered new filters and will increase air flow to improve the air quality in each facility. We are also exploring additional methods to provide a more comprehensive air quality solution districtwide using more advanced technology. All of these actions will improve the physical space and increase safety, but improving the buildings will not get us any closer to returning to school if we don’t work together as a community for the next three months to support our children and families.

Based on parent and student feedback, you will see some changes in how some classes are designed and delivered during the second quarter to allow more contact with teachers. We will also be offering more opportunities for parents to get help using technology. We are making these adjustments because we want our kids back in school with minimal learning loss. I am asking you to partner with us over the next three months so that in January we can welcome our children back to safe, clean facilities where they can be with their teachers and friends. If you can, please commit do doing these few things:

1. As a community member, wear a mask and social distance so that Doña Ana County will be green.

2. As a religious or community leader, help us to unite our citizens to do their part to help each other with basic needs. In order for our children to thrive academically, they have to be safe, clothed and fed. If you know of a family in need, help them in any way you can or let us know and we will help them.

3. As an employer, respect the fact that students have school during the day. Work with these students to identify when they have class time and do not schedule them to work during those times. Attending class is the best way for students to be successful. I realize that many students are working to help their families financially, but their future success depends on them finishing their education. In addition, if you have employees who are parents, work with them as well. Parenting, working and supervising at-home learning is really hard.

4. As a parent, check your child’s grades weekly, help them attend every scheduled class time, and encourage them to complete every assignment. Tutoring is available for all students through the district and the City of Las Cruces. Ask your teacher for more information or check the website at http://lcps.net.

5. As a student, attend every scheduled class, turn your camera on and be an active participant in your own education. When you need help, ask for it. We are here to help you. Commit to NO ZEROS.

On Monday, I shared with the LCPS staff that the fall season is one of change and transition. Some of our high school students involved in activities have started practicing and returning to campuses in small groups for short periods of time. In a few weeks, some special education students will be allowed to work with their teachers in person. This responsible re-engagement is a start, and hopefully in January, all students will be able to enjoy school in person.

If we want that to become a reality, we all have to do our part. We are making sure our schools safe and adjusting instruction to better meet the needs of students and families. We need you to follow Covid-19 safe practices, take care of your neighbors, watch out for student employees, encourage full participation in school, and ask for help when you need it. I can’t wait for our children to be back in the classroom. What a wonderful day that will be!

Dr. Karen Trujillo is the superintendent at Las Cruces Public Schools.