SANTA FE – The New Mexico Public Education Department (PED) has announced that New Mexico’s largest private school has agreed to pay a $5,000 civil penalty for violating the state’s public health order requiring everyone on campus to wear a face covering to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Albuquerque’s Hope Christian School, which has almost 1,400 students enrolled in grades pre-K through 12, said in a Jan. 12 letter that it was dropping a request for an evidentiary hearing and paying the proposed fine.
The letter was signed by Matthew Spangler, the school’s lawyer, and sent to Craig Erickson, an Albuquerque lawyer assigned to the case as an administrative hearing officer.
“Although the school does not agree that the Notice of Contemplated Action … is warranted, the School has made an economic decision to cease its dispute and conclude this matter,” the letter said.
The school promised to pay the civil penalty within 10 days.
The state’s Public Health Order requires private schools to adhere to the same COVID-Safe Practices required by the Public Education Department for public schools.\
The PED has required face coverings for everyone regardless of vaccination status since July 26.
Officers from the Department of Public Safety on Sept. 21 hand-delivered a notice of violation signed by Department of Health General Counsel Billy Jimenez.
The Public Education Department provided the Department of Health with an Aug. 6 email in which Hope Christian Elementary Principal Robyn Taylor said the school would not require masks.
Additional evidence included five photos taken Aug. 12 of unmasked individuals of all ages in hallways and an open space.
Hope Christian, founded in 1976, is non-denominational and co-educational.
The New Mexico Public Education Department maintains an anonymous COVID Safety portal where anyone can register concerns and provide evidence in the form of photos, emails or other documents that COVID-Safe Practices are not being followed in schools.
The New Mexico Public Education Department partners with educators, communities and families to ensure that all students are healthy, secure in their identity and holistically prepared for college, career and life. Currently, the NMPED serves more than 317,000 students in 187 districts and charter schools. Find an abundance of resources for administrators, educators, families and students at New Mexico Public Education Department (state.nm.us) or follow the NMPED on Facebook and Twitter.