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School will start remotely, Oñate High School to be renamed


Following a presentation of the 2020 Return Plan to the Las Cruces Public Schools Board of Education on Tuesday, July 14, and more than three hours of discussion with the board, LCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Trujillo announced that administration would focus on transitioning students to remote learning beginning Aug. 12 – the original day of instruction to begin.  

Citing student and staff safety, input from board members, teachers, parents and community members, the decision was made to begin the upcoming fall semester in an all-remote environment. 

“Our staff worked diligently on the hybrid plan as directed by the New Mexico Public Education Department,” said Trujillo. “However, as coronavirus numbers increase in our community, we realize that we cannot safely put our students and staff in buildings as early as August 12.” 

Under the remote plan, students will engage with their teachers in a virtual setting for the foreseeable future. There will be additional accommodations made for Special Education and English Learners; LCPS administration will be reaching out to engage students to ensure social/emotional learning needs are met.  

On a separate issue, the school board voted to rename Oñate High School. While a community survey, including Oñate students, staff and parents, voted 1,350 for to 4,129 against changing the name of the school, the majority of the school board voted in favor of changing the name.

A name was not chosen but, in a call for name suggestions (also part of a survey), Organ Mountain High School was an overwhelming top choice. Other suggestions made by students and community members during the earlier survey include Organ, Bataan, Obama, Ocotillo, East Mesa, O’Keeffe, Viramontes, Dan Sosa Jr. and Knights High School.

School member Ray Jaramillo, the only no vote on the board, said he does think the name should be changed but in light of the pandemic, the cost of around $200,000 to change the name at the school and the results of the survey, “it left me no option.”

The cost of changing the name includes the need for new uniforms, banners and other signage, stadium seating and other places the words Oñate High School appear. The cost of those changes would be about $50,000 less if the new school name begins with an O.

Jim Schapekahm, principal at Oñate High School, will elicit additional input from current and future students, staff and parents to present possible names to the board at a future meeting. 

In regard to the upcoming school year, parents are currently being surveyed to assess technology, nutrition and transportation needs. The survey also provides an opportunity for students to register for the Virtual Learning Academy (VLA), a fully online option for students in 2020. Students who opt to attend VLA will make a commitment for the semester, whereas the remote learning model is a temporary learning environment with an end goal of returning to school when health conditions allow for face-to-face instruction. It is vital that all parents fill out this survey by 11:59 p.m. Friday, July 17, to allow district officials to finalize schedules and staffing.  

As LCPS administration works through the remote model, information will be sent home to families and progress will be posted at www.lcps.net

Las Cruces Public Schools, Oñate High School