Menaul School is fully functional during COVID-19

The 2020 school year is off to a great start

by Gail Strange | Presbyterian News Service

Lindsey Gilbert, the president and head of school at Menaul School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, checks arriving students’ temperature to ensure the safety of students and faculty on the first day of school. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE The COVID-19 pandemic has caused the entire world to rethink the way we conduct some of our most routine practices. Each year at this time schools across the nation would be welcoming their students and staff for another year of learning.

While many schools are starting with non-traditional instructions such as online or hybrid classes, Menaul School, one of the Presbyterian Schools and Colleges Equipping Communities of Color supported by the Racial Equity & Women’s Intercultural Ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, has opted for in-person learning for most of their students.

From its campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Menaul School is home to a diverse body of 200 students who attend school from as far away as China and Taiwan. Lindsey Gilbert, president and head of the school, said Menaul officially opened slindchool on Aug. 19. “We held orientation outdoors, following strict (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) regulations,” he said. “We’re operating under three pillars: social distancing, wearing masks and extreme hygiene.” Temperature checks are also a part of the school’s routine to ensure a safe learning environment.

Menaul School students observe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols, including wearing a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Contributed photo)

Currently 160 students are on campus and 40 students are learning remotely. There are some international students who can’t return to campus due to travel bans resulting from the pandemic. “We have classes set up outside in large tents and we’re using all the large spaces available,” said Gilbert. To beat the New Mexico heat, the school has added outdoor fans to improve ventilation and cooling in tents. The school is adding water mist systems to improve the temperatures outside during late mornings and early afternoons.

Classes are at 25% capacity, with 20% of the school’s families live streaming from home. That means a class that would normally have 22 students now has six in the classroom. Gilbert describes the Menaul School as a “high tech” school.

“We’ve been using iPads and other forms of technology in the classroom for more than eight years now,” Gilbert said. “This means while some students may be outside, others may be in a classroom or at home. But all of the students are getting the same instruction in real time.”

When asked what prompted his decision to hold in-person classes, Gilbert said, “This virus is not going away. We believe that we need to be ready to live with this virus.”  Gilbert says a task force of parents, some of them doctors, individuals who served on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s task force, teachers and others helped to make the decision to open the school. “The task force believed we could do it right,” he said. “So, we decided to bite the bullet and go ahead with our plan. This is not going to change.”

In a message to students, staff and parents, Gilbert wrote, “We thrived in our first days of Menaul School Reopened. I want to start with high praise for our students. Thank you for following our guidelines so faithfully. You have done an excellent job of social distancing, wearing masks, and learning all the new routines. I appreciate that it feels weird, because frankly it is weird, unique, and different. But it is so much more effective and fun to be together learning that I think you will agree it’s worth it. If we stay disciplined and careful, we can protect each student, teacher, and family. We are off to a great start – I appreciate your sensitivity and care for the Menaul School Community.”

Gilbert said the school is ready to switch to 100% online learning if it becomes necessary. But for now, faculty and students will continue with face-to-face learning.

Next year the Menaul School will be celebrating its 125th year of operation. The Presbyterian school was started on January 4, 1896 and is supported by your gifts to the Christmas Joy Offering.

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