Rural school districts are different

People in rural school districts are different, they will tell you.

Different from what, you might ask. Certainly some needs are unique to those districts, such as those related to the long travel distances. A lifelong resident of Magdalena told me that when her children were school age, she drove them nine miles down a dirt road to meet the school bus.

What those folks mean, though, is that they are different from the bureaucrats and officials in Santa Fe who trounce on local rights and try to tell them what to do.

New Mexico’s small rural school districts are remarkable. Compared to our 33 counties, we have 89 school districts.

Thirteen districts have fewer than 200 students, as counted in a recent report by Kids Count: Corona, Des Moines, House, Mosquero, Vaughn, Wagon Mound, Animas, Carrizozo, Elida, Grady, Maxwell, San Jon and Springer.  

New Mexico recognizes the special nature of these districts, supports them and does not seek to consolidate them.

The now-famous Floyd school district has a reported 226 students. Floyd made the national news a few weeks ago when its board unanimously opposed the mask mandate issued by the Public Education Department. Then PED stepped in and suspended the board.

Supporters of defying the rule claimed students were switching to private schools, or moving to go to school in Texas, to escape the dictatorship from Santa Fe. That is possible, but the Kids Count data base shows the school population has been consistently close to 226 for the last 8 years.

Floyd is in Roosevelt County, west of Portales, less than 30 miles from the Texas border. Other very small districts run up and down the border.

It’s farm and ranch county. Ranchers are independent people with impressive survival skills.  I consider them courageous and very smart. If coronavirus was a cattle disease they would have wiped it out.

But Roosevelt County and its neighbors are not doing so well against COVID-19.

For all of its wide open spaces and nature’s ventilation, in the first half of August Roosevelt County had 42 cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 population (Aug. 3-18 on the state dashboard). The positivity rate (percentage of positive COVID-19 tests in the past 7 days) was 19.18%. Nearby southeastern counties had comparable numbers, with a few positivity rates above 20%.

Big crowded Bernalillo County had 24 cases per 100,000 – a little more than half the rate of Roosevelt – and a positivity rate of 6.64%. Santa Fe County, home of the bureaucrats, had 14.7 cases per 100,000 and a positivity rate of 4.61%.

The proof is in the numbers. Whatever Roosevelt County is doing is not working.

I keep on looking for anti-maskers to present sound medical arguments against masks. Masks are inconvenient, sometimes uncomfortable and possibly annoying. They may be a distraction for children, who probably should get frequent outdoor breaks. But they don’t make you sick or cause danger.

In all the statements against mask wearing, by Floyd school board members and anyone else, in New Mexico or on national TV, I have not heard one argument that cited harm from wearing a mask, other than a symbolic surrender to big government. Most importantly, in all this talk of personal freedom, I have not heard any consideration for others. I still find that incomprehensible.

The fierce independence that anti-maskers express does not seem to

acknowledge that you wear a mask partly to protect other people from you. If wearing a mask represents knuckling under to a tyrannical government, so does stopping your car at red lights, disposing properly of your garbage and not sneezing other people’s faces. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Not a bad idea for a school district.

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