We started something new at Las Cruces Public Schools. For the first time, students and teachers across LCPS will start the school year in July. Following a shortened summer, I spent the last week reconnecting with students and staff, and I can confidently say the energy is high. There is excitement in the air, and I have a renewed strength to be the best leader I can for LCPS and our community.
Our district is the only public school system in the state that has taken the brave first step of trying out a balanced calendar. Change is hard, but I believe the decision by our Board of Education provides a real opportunity for lasting change to bring more creativity into our classrooms with enriched learning days added in. To support that, our teachers have spent part of their summers attending professional development sessions to fortify their passion for instructing your children. Elementary staff experienced a training called The Leader in Me, which uses the seven habits of highly effective people to inspire our educators to be the best they can be in our schools. The training was just one example of many diverse catalog options for teachers to ready themselves for the year ahead.
One of the more exciting announcements we will make in the coming week is that all of our LCPS students will eat breakfast and lunch for free next year, thanks to the Community Eligibility Program (CEP). During the pandemic, federal funds were immediately made available to ensure all students had access to nutritional support with healthy meals throughout the school day. Now that our nation is moving forward, those federal funds are no longer available, but the CEP will continue to bridge that gap. All LCPS schools will serve breakfast and lunch free of charge to all students, and eliminate the collection of meal applications for free, reduced-price, or paid student meals. A healthy, well-balanced meal is critical to student health and overall well-being, and research shows that reducing food insecurities in our communities improves test scores and students' social emotional health.
Students and teachers will see some familiar safety protocols when we return to school, because staying vigilant against the spread of COVID remains a top priority in our district. Principals received a copy of our LCPS COVID-19 School Guidelines, which outline what school personnel need to know about our safety protocols. Masks remain optional. Staff who are working on-site who do not meet the current CDC “up to date” COVID vaccine definition and who have not had COVID in the last 90 days are required to participate in weekly surveillance testing. While students are required to have up to date immunization records according to the Department of Health, being vaccinated against COVID is not required of our students.
If you’re reading this, and you still have questions about schedules, school supplies or bus transportation, our website is full of valuable information. Supply lists can be found in our News section, and the Transportation tab in the middle of the homepage will link you to a Bus Locator that can help you find your child’s bus number, bus stop, and the time that parents can expect the bus to pick up and/or drop off their student.
Moving into the new year, we are still mindful of the incident that happened earlier this year in Uvalde. Situational awareness is something we talk about to our staff, and drills are planned throughout the year. Although no amount of training will ever prepare us for the unthinkable, we are having discussions in our district and with law enforcement that we hope to share with parents very soon. We implore our students and educators to be mindful of their surroundings. If you see something, say something. Tell an adult if something makes you uncomfortable. Most importantly, if something alarming is being shared through social media or on your cell phone, don’t share it with your friends – share it with the principal. Welcome back to school, Las Cruces. We are looking forward to seeing smiling faces and are ready to help however we can. Let’s win the year.
Ralph Ramos is the superintendent of schools at Las Cruces Public Schools.