Los Lunas Schools announced this week that students in elementary and middle school can now enroll in an online-only option for the 2021-22 school year.

“Many families found that online learning really worked for their students,” said Sidney Olivas, Los Lunas Schools marketing and media design specialist. “We want to provide this as an option for those who wish to continue. We have also heard from many families who are not quite ready for their students to be back in a regular classroom setting due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Olivas said through a survey sent out to every family within the district earlier this year, the district identified a distinct want from parents to have an online-only option for the next school year. The district expects the demand for this option to increase as the summer continues.

The Family School Digital Academy evolved out of the traditional family school offered out of Valencia Elementary School, which saw a decline in enrollment over time and will no longer be offered at Los Lunas Schools.

Olivas said the digital academy will be a permanent offering by the district as long as the demand for the program remains. It is meant as a supplement to home-schooling as well as those that do well in an online environment.

“The family school was a very small group of home-schooled students within the county … We had about three or four home-school teachers and for specific subjects, these students were taught,” Olivas said. “Now, it’ll be completely online.”

The number of teachers working with the academy will be determined through enrollment with all teachers being New Mexico certified and employed through Los Lunas Schools.

While classes will be offered online with certified teachers, to participate in the program, the district asks for each student to have a “learning coach” that can dedicate at least six hours per day, depending on the grade level, to the student’s education.

“(The digital academy) is basically the same (as a traditional home-school option), except they will be doing it online with teachers,” Olivas said. “We just encourage that there is an adult at home, who is able to oversee what is happening with the classroom, making sure their child is completing the assignments on time and has someone at home who is their advocate.”

The time recommended for the learning coach to dedicate to the student’s learning varies by grade, with four to six hours per day recommended for kindergarten through third grade, and to two to four hours for middle-schoolers.

“We really encourage family members, parents and guardians to speak with their children and really decide if this is an option that is best for their child,” Olivas said. “If their child excelled over the last school year 100 percent remotely, that’s a great option as well. We want family members to really communicate with each other and really decide if this is what’s best for their child.”

Any student in the district in kindergarten to eighth grade can enroll by Monday, June 21, to participate in the online-only option. Middle-school students can still participate in sports at the school in which they are districted to attend while participating in the digital academy.

“We encourage parents who believe this is best for their child, that they register as soon as possible,” Olivas said.

More information about the Digital Academy and registration can be found here.

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Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.