October 1, 2020

Dear School of Dreams Academy Community,

Last Tuesday, September 29, 2020, the School of Dreams Governing Council voted, unanimously, to remain in remote learning throughout the fall 2020 semester. In addition, the Governing Council voted to allow small groups of students, as permitted by the New Mexico Public Education Department and the New Mexico Department of Health be allowed to receive in-person support (more details on this will be forthcoming). 

In March of 2020, the world was rocked by the advent of the Corona Virus, COVID-19 pandemic. Back in June, we surveyed our SODA community while closely watching infection rates and the current public health orders. The overwhelming recommendation, then, was to provide 100% virtual instruction in all grades PreK – 12 for the first nine weeks of school with the notion that we would continue to closely monitor current health orders and COVID-19 outbreak numbers to make decisions on how to move forward after the first grading period. At that time, we stated:

  • If data suggests that it is safe to consider having students return, we will “slowly” implement a hybrid model to bring students back.
  • If data suggests that it is not safe, we will continue with virtual instruction. 

Throughout this time, we have been tracking  information from the NM Department of Health’s COVID-19 website, and it is obvious that the rates of COVID infections is once again increasing (yesterday was New Mexico’s highest confirmed numbers since July as we move into fall, the flu season, and cold weather).

Months ago, we developed a hybrid plan for all grade levels that was approved by the NMPED, as part of our original reentry plan. We were excited about welcoming our students back to school, but once the infection rates soared over the summer, it was clear this was not advisable, and we decided to start fully remote. It is extremely important for the public and our School of Dreams Community, to know that these recommendations and decision were not made lightly. Weekly meetings with state officials have occurred since March. Countless plans and narratives have been submitted, tweaked, and resubmitted, showing how we plan to handle a variety of scenarios including ever changing learning environments, purchase of additional equipment for remote learning, obtaining adequate supplies of PPE, ongoing plans for health and safety protocols, building sanitizations, initiation of proactive procedures to ensure the safety and well-being of our students, staff, and school community, and finally, what procedures and processes to initiate in the event that one of our students and/or staff contracts the virus. All that, and still taking on the arduous task of teaching students day in and day out in what is now our “new normal”. 

At this point, giving consideration to all options, it seems the safest thing to do is to remain in the virtual model for the remainder of this first semester and to reevaluate our position in December taking into account current infection rates and health orders at that time. Currently, the NM Public Education Department has developed a COVID Toolkit for Elementary School Reentry (a Secondary Toolkit is forthcoming). While it outlines many protocols and procedures necessary to be able to proceed with reentry, in the end it is the decision of each local school board and charter school governing council to do what is best for our respective communities. The toolkit requires each Superintendent and Head Administrator to sign assurances that ALL required protocols are in place before considering bringing students back in a hybrid model. One such requirement, that surfaced three weeks ago speaks to the assessment of building ventilation and HVAC systems to meet certain filtration standards. This requirement created much pause throughout the state, which resulted in the PED making adjustments to their initial recommendation. What that means for us, with respect to our HVAC systems (and we have 32 separate systems), is we are having all of our dual units and heating systems inspected and upgraded to the highest level of air flow filtration possible. This needs to be in place prior to getting approval to bring students back in a hybrid model. Other requirements on the Elementary School Safety Plan Checklist for COVID-19 Preparation and Response include:

  • Compile and maintain an inventory of masks and PPE for students and staff. Currently we have on hand (Many thanks to the Valencia County Fire Marshall and staff, as well as, New Mexico Tech EMRTC program for donating PPE and hand sanitizer)
    • 3,300 surgical masks
    • 500 kid size disposable masks
    • 980 reusable cloth masks
    • 180 N95 masks
    • 400 gowns
    • 750 face shields
    • 45 boxes of gloves
    • 120 gallons of hand sanitizer
  • Identified a SODA “PPE Point of Contact”.
  • Identified a SODA “COVID-19 Point Person”. 
  • Clear and defined “Social Distancing Plan” in place.
  • Ensure student groups remain in cohorts (upon returning in hybrid).
  • Have and maintain an inventory of CDC-approved cleaning supplies.
  • Ensure sufficient custodial resources are available.
  • Have an established and written protocol on inspecting, repairing, and providing maintenance on ventilation systems.
  • Finally, my signed assurance that I have read and reviewed NMPED’s COVID-19 Response Toolkit for New Mexico Public Elementary Schools and will abide by its guidelines.

Therefore, the following recommendation was made and approved by the Governing Council on 9/29/20.

Superintendent’s Recommendations on Reentry

  1. Remain in current remote learning model for the remainder of the first semester. 
  2. The meal program will continue to serve meals at the current 5 locations across the valley.
  3. During the second 9 weeks, SODA will begin working on a plan that coincides with current health orders allowing small groups of students (5:1 ratio), as permitted by the NM Public Education Department and NM Department of Health to receive in person support instruction (grades K-5). Simultaneously, we will work with IEP teams, to develop a plan, to allow students with IEP’s to come onto campus for “scheduled, in person” support and/or to have access to the school’s internet in order to attend virtual classes (All grades). Both these plans will move slowly with student and staff health and safety at the forefront. 
  4. *Note: these plans are subject to change as the COVID-19 pandemic is a continuously fluid situation. Details and procedures will be coming in the near future.

School officials will reevaluate the remote learning model in December and make recommendations, to the Governing Council, on how to move forward.  If you have any questions please reach out to your child’s teachers, advisor (secondary), counselors, or school administration. Thank you for your continued support. Together, we remain SODA STRONG!

Mike Ogas