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PED changes course on state-funded Extended Learning Time

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The state Public Education Department is making a sharp turn on its decision to scratch a high-profile learning program for this year.

Just a week after canceling K-5 Plus and Extended Learning Time – state-funded efforts to increase the time students spend in the classroom – PED Secretary Ryan Stewart said in a memo that Extended Learning Time opportunities will continue after all.

“In a change from the most recent memo, PED will not cancel Extended Learning Time programs for the 2020-21 school year. PED will continue to review and approve Extended Learning Time program applications that were submitted by the deadline provided that the additional school days occur after August 10,” he wrote in a memo from May 26 to school leaders.

The program lengthens the school year by 10 days, boosts professional development time for teachers and requires after-school or extracurricular programs.

Given the spread of COVID-19, the aim is to continue the program at a safer time. Plans for programs slated to take place before Aug. 10 can be revised, according to the memo.

K-5 Plus, however, remains off the table for this summer, given that altering its rigid requirements would require a change in state legislation.

“PED will continue to work with legislators and legislative staff on potential options that would enable as many students as possible to have access to safe and robust extended school year options going forward,” the secretary wrote.

Amanda Aragon, executive director of education nonprofit NewMexicoKidsCAN, wants the state to turn its attention to making other summer programming available to fill the K-5 Plus gap soon.

The PED says the change in course on Extended Learning Time came after “consideration and reflection on feedback,” though it isn’t without logistical challenges.

Arsenio Romero, superintendent of Deming Public Schools, said he was glad the program was reinstated because the district has a long history of extending the school year and relies on Extended Learning Time.

Still, he notes the program is tricky in a normal school year and now it’s more of a puzzle than ever.

“Because of some of the COVID-19 realities, it’s going to possibly affect how a district instructional calendar is going to look and then, when you add on top the requirements for Extended Learning, it just makes it that much more challenging,” he said. “It’s not impossible, but it’s definitely a challenge.”

He’s hoping the PED will release more direction in the future.

Echoing Romero, Albuquerque Collegiate Charter School Executive Director Jade Rivera is also grateful to see the PED reinstating Extended Learning Time, though she recognized the school’s program plan will need to be reworked.

The charter school originally was going to start the program on Aug. 5, but that date will be pushed back to adhere to the latest PED guidance, requiring subsequent change to teacher contracts and other details.

“I think it was a disappointment certainly to hear that it was canceled and certainly created some confusion as it was reinstated,” she said.

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