Dr. Gerry Washburn
Parents, Guardians, and Members of the Carlsbad Community,
On Aug. 10, 2021, students will begin returning to our schools and on Aug. 11, 2021 all of our students will be back in their schools. This is a cause for celebration. Last year at this time, we were preparing to open in a fully remote setting for all students. To know that our students will be in classrooms and begin sports, band, choir and other activities in an in-person setting is a big step towards returning our students to a sense of normality and stability. We are all thankful that this is possible.
The guidelines for school year 2021/2022 were released by the Public Education on Monday, July 26, 2021. Under those guidelines, all elementary students and staff must wear masks while attending school. The District has the latitude to allow vaccinated staff and students to attend school without masks. To do this we must require proof of vaccination and keep a record of that, just like we do with required immunizations. The day this guidance was released the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a recommendation that all K-12 students and staff be masked in indoor settings. This recommendation aligned with the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation that all students and staff attend school wearing masks.
We are governed by the Public Health Order currently in effect. Educators licensed by the State of New Mexico are required to adhere to the rules as issued. Failure to do so can result in revocation of licensure, among other penalties. The School Board, as public officials, are required to ensure that the schools comply with all State and Federal Laws and Regulations. Failure to do so can result in the suspension and or removal of the School Board by the Public Education Department.
The School Board and the educators of Carlsbad Municipal Schools have a moral and legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of all students and staff that attend and work in Carlsbad Municipal Schools. To meet that obligation, Carlsbad Municipal Schools will be requiring all students and staff, regardless of vaccination status, to wear a mask when in our schools. The guidelines for allowing vaccinated students and staff to be unmasked have a number of issues, not the least of which is potentially stigmatizing students for being vaccinated or unvaccinated as well as placing staff in the position of being vaccination gatekeepers.
I offer some sobering numbers that led to this decision. Last year for the five-day period ending July 29, 2020 Eddy County had a total of 14 cases or 2.8 cases per day only had five total student cases. In the five-day period ending July 29, 2021 Eddy County has 152 total cases or 30.4 cases per day and 23 student cases. A recent student case has resulted in the quarantine of 99 of our students who were participating in an activity. Our focus has to be on the safe and positive start to a school year in the in-person environment our students need. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that learning be in-person with safety protocols including masks in place. A mask is a small price to pay for in-person learning. A mask is a small price to pay for students being able to participate in athletics and activities. A mask is a small price to pay for keeping your friends and neighbors safe.
I join other community leaders in encouraging everyone eligible for the vaccination to get it. The focus of Carlsbad Municipal Schools is on keeping students and staff safe while addressing the learning gaps that resulted from our remote learning environment. Masks and vaccinations provide a pathway to reducing COVID-19 infections, reducing quarantines for unvaccinated exposed students and staff and ultimately to keeping our students in the classroom and in their activities where they belong.