Students may be spending the dog days of summer learning in classrooms.
Many Albuquerque Public Schools students would have shorter summer breaks and longer school years under changes the district is proposing for next year’s academic calendar. The new calendar was unveiled for families and educators Thursday afternoon.
Under the changes, most schools would start their fall semesters about a week earlier than normal, on Aug. 3. The last day of school for most students would be May 31, instead of the current May 25.
Students’ summer and fall breaks would also be shortened, but students would get about two and a half weeks off in the winter and about two weeks off in the spring.
“There’s no such thing as a perfect calendar, and there’s no such thing as a perfect schedule,” Superintendent Scott Elder said at a press conference. “This is just a tool to help us to achieve greater outcomes … we still have to do a better job in our classrooms and in our schools and in our community for our kids.”
“This is just the reality of what the new legislation asked for,” he added.
School board members last year turned down proposals to add extra days to the calendar districtwide amid a flood of community concerns. Only 29 out of over 140 schools opted into longer school years, and similar statewide programs have seen declining enrollment in recent years.
APS had previously held off on releasing an academic calendar, awaiting a decision from the Legislature on a proposal to increase class time to at least 1,140 hours per school year.
That legislation — House Bill 130 — was signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham Thursday afternoon, though funding for the measure is still pending as she weighs the state’s spending bill.
The district is also considering later start times for high school students, who currently report to class around 7:25 a.m., according to the letter. But because of transportation issues — namely, a shortage of bus drivers — that move would have implications for when elementary and middle school students would begin school, Elder said.
APS is still working that idea out. Elder said that bus schedules will likely need to be staggered, meaning some students start earlier than others.
“We don’t have enough buses or drivers to just send everybody at the same time. In an ideal world, we’d start everyone at the same time, but we can’t do that,” he said. “Most districts can’t.”
Many elementary and middle school students would also be released about two hours early on most Wednesdays under the proposal, so teachers can have time for professional development, which is another requirement of HB 130.
That, along with longer breaks, will help address concerns over fatigue, burnout and other issues teachers have expressed, Albuquerque Teachers Federation President Ellen Bernstein told the Journal, adding that there’s been a lot of anxiety about the next school year’s calendar.
“It takes energy to work with students. It takes a lot of energy,” she said. “I think this addresses a lot of that, and it calms a lot of fears.”
If approved, the calendar would go into effect for the coming school year. School board members are expected to take a vote on the calendar in April, and the district is asking for people to give their input on the plans before then.
While state law is now telling them to do so, Elder argued that more time in school presents an opportunity to move the needle in the district.
“We really believe that the more our kids are in school, the more opportunity we have to reach them and help them learn,” Elder said.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed a date provided by Albuquerque Public Schools for the start of the school year that was incorrect. The correct date is Aug. 3. The story has been updated.