Legislature: Senate Committee To Consider Legislation To Allow School Boards To Safely Reopen Schools


On Monday, the Senate Education Committee will consider legislation to allow local school boards to safely reopen their schools for in-person learning during a public health emergency. Senate Bill 171 (SB 171), sponsored by Senators David Gallegos (R-Eddy and Lea), Gay Kernan (R-Chaves, Eddy, and Lea), and George Muñoz (D-Cibola, McKinley, and San Juan), would give local school boards the ability to shift their schools from online-only education to hybrid models, and eventually, to full in-person learning. In determining whether or not to reopen, school boards would be required to use recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In my district, too many New Mexico students have had to cross state lines into Texas to receive the education they need and deserve,” said Senator Kernan, a retired educator. “Official reports indicate that our children have potentially lost more than a year of learning and the longer we keep schools closed, the longer it will take for these students to catch up.”

Under SB 171, parents would still have the option to choose online-only instruction for their children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, school personnel who opt for virtual teaching while the state public health emergency order is in effect would not be subject to discrimination. 

“This is not a partisan issue,” added Senator Gallegos. “After nearly a year under the Governor’s orders, we must give parents and students the option to return to school for in-person learning. We are pleased to have Democratic sponsorship from Senator Muñoz on this bill and we look forward to receiving additional bipartisan support during the committee process and before the full Senate.”

The Senate Education Committee hearing for SB 171 will be streamed live via webcast at nmlegis.gov. Any member of the public wishing to make public comment should send an email to SEC@nmlegis.gov with the following information: your name; entity represented (if applicable); the bill number (SB 171); whether you are for or against the bill; and whether or not you would like to speak. The deadline to respond is Sunday at 5:00 p.m.