SANTA FE, New Mexico -- On Monday, the New Mexico Public Education Department released guidance for masks and students for the upcoming school year, ABC affiliate KOAT reported.
According to the updated guidance students, teachers and staff in junior and high school settings will not be required to wear masks if they have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. Proof of vaccination will be required.
Masks will still be required for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, in elementary schools.
Masks will also be required for anyone that is not vaccinated or refuses to show proof of vaccination in those secondary school settings.
Masks will not be required for eating and drinking during allowed times, during designating rest periods for very young students and while outdoors.
“Our priority is to keep children in school, and it’s great news that the CDC guidance shows that secondary students and staff who are vaccinated can safely attend school without masks,” said PED Secretary Ryan Stewart.
Individual schools may still choose to have more restrictive mask mandates if they see fit, according to PED.
More information below:
Those who wish to go maskless at school must provide either an original or copy of a vaccination card or a printout or screen shot from NMVaxView indicating a completed course of COVID-19 vaccination at least 14 days prior.
Replacement vaccination cards are available at regional public health offices. Family health providers can provide a printout from NMVaxView.
Schools will develop a system to allow staff members to quickly verify those who may go maskless and those who must wear a mask. Schools also may require universal mask wearing while in a school building, at an indoor school-sponsored event, and on school transportation.
Unvaccinated students cannot be in a school building without a mask. Schools will provide masks to unvaccinated students. However, students who remove face masks or refuse to wear them will be sent home. While waiting for pickup, such students will be supervised and quarantined from other students.
Schools will individually determine student discipline for mask violations, but the toolkit says such discipline will be supportive and instructional and will not include suspension or expulsion. Schools must provide notice to families about updated discipline policies.
The new guidelines also ease some of the reporting requirements for schools. For example, schools are no longer required to report COVID cases over weekends and holidays.
- The definition of a close contact is reduced from 6 to 3 feet if both students were correctly masked and other prevention strategies were in place; it’s still 6 feet between adults and students, and between adults.
- Vaccinated students, teachers and staff are no longer required to practice social distancing while eating. Unvaccinated students should sit on only one side of a table and maintain the prescribed social distance.
- Cohorting of students is encouraged but no longer required.
- School-related events -- assemblies, dances, award ceremonies and the like -- are permitted with masking and social distancing requirements for unvaccinated individuals.
- Schools must maintain a voluntary student surveillance testing program with a new weekly goal of testing 25% of unvaccinated students participating in sports and other extra-curricular activities. The previous goal was 1% of the overall student population and 10% of students participating in sports and other extracurricular activities.
- All schools must test 25% of unvaccinated staff members each week; previously, only schools in red counties had to test at that level.