ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — The University of New Mexico has announced its reopening plan for the fall semester with coursework offered both in-person and remotely starting in August, while some public schools consider a virtual start to the school year as the number of COVID-19 cases rises.
University officials announced the plan at a Board of Regents meeting Tuesday, saying the semester is set to begin Aug. 17, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
At its peak times, the Albuquerque campus is expected to draw as many as 4,000 people, including faculty, staff and residents, Provost James Holloway said. Before the pandemic, as many as 30,000 people would be on campus at a given time.
“Our goals have been to limit, but not eliminate, face-to-face instruction,” Holloway said, adding about two-thirds of courses are now scheduled to be entirely remote. That number could increase.
Thermometers will be included in welcome kits for students, and any confirmed COVID-19 cases will be addressed with cleaning and contact tracing, officials said. Masks and social distancing measures will also be required.
Some public school districts will be opting for virtual learning to start the semester, including Los Alamos, Las Cruces and West Las Vegas schools.
West Las Vegas Superintendent Chris Gutierrez made the call Tuesday, saying students and staff will start the new year from home.
“We decided to pump the brakes a little bit,” Gutierrez told the Santa Fe New Mexican after announcing his district would be executing what he called the “red option” of reopening plans: an all-virtual-learning model. The district plans to reassess the situation after Labor Day.
The Santa Fe school district announced Wednesday that it's working with the teachers’ union to seek board approval to allow the district to conduct remote leaning for at least the first nine weeks of the semester.
At the University of New Mexico, face-to-face instruction is expected to end before Thanksgiving break. Students will complete the remaining semester and take finals online.
The regents also approved revised budgets for the university, decreasing the main campus' budget from $905 million to $872 million because of lower revenues and added expenses caused by the pandemic, officials said. Departments will be asked to reevaluate their budgets for ways to cover the deficit.
The budget plans now have to be approved by the state Higher Education Department.
On Wednesday, New Mexico health officials reported an additional 330 COVID-19 cases in the state, bringing the statewide total to more than 15,800 since the coronavirus outbreak began. Health officials also reported six additional deaths, bringing that total to 557.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.