Democrat New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has announced an initiative to have members of the National Guard work in the state’s severely understaffed schools.
The “Supporting Teachers and Families” initiative aims to encourage members of the National Guard to volunteer to become licensed as substitute pre-K-12 teachers and/or child care workers.
In a press release about the initiative, Governor Grisham’s office said that members of the Guard who do volunteer will have to go through the same process as other substitute teachers and volunteers — including undergoing a background check and completing an online substitute teaching workshop for individuals applying to work in schools.
“Our schools are a critical source of stability for our kids – we know they learn better in the classroom and thrive among their peers,” said Gov. Grisham in the statement. “Our kids, our teachers and our parents deserve as much stability as we can provide during this time of uncertainty, and the state stands ready to help keep kids in the classroom, parents able to go to work and teachers able to fully focus on the critical work they do every single day in educating the next generation.”
The governor’s office explained that additional staffing “will allow schools to avoid the disruptive process of switching between remote and in-person learning and prevent child care programs from having to shut down altogether.”
“Currently, many schools are being forced to shift to online learning and child care facilities are being forced to temporarily close when staff members test positive for COVID-19 or are identified as close contacts and must isolate or quarantine for 5 days,” the statement explained. “The goal of the state’s effort is to ensure these establishments have the staffing resources to temporarily fill in during these gaps. Since winter break, around 60 school districts and charter schools have moved into remote learning. Since the beginning of the year, 75 child care centers have partially or completely closed due to staffing shortages.”
The governor announced the initiative at Santa Fe High School, which is currently in remote learning due to a lack of substitute teachers.
“We’ve heard from multiple districts that a lack of substitute teachers is among the most critical staffing issues right now, and they’ve asked for the state’s support,” said Public Education Secretary Kurt Steinhaus. “This is state government at its best, and we are ready to step up to support our teachers, who have been on the front lines of the pandemic for nearly two years now, by increasing the state’s pool of substitute teachers.”
Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario “Larry” Chavez said that the effort will be crucial for getting students back in physical classrooms.
“Santa Fe Public Schools greatly appreciates the STAF initiative by Governor Lujan Grisham, as this will be instrumental in helping us return and continue in-person learning by covering staff vacancies and reducing the stress on our remaining staff who have taken on additional duties,” Chavez said.