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Santa Fe schools closing early for ‘Save Our Schools’ rally

SANTA FE – Public school students and employees in Santa Fe will get half the day off today to accommodate those who want to take part in a “Save Our Schools” rally at the Roundhouse at 3 p.m.

The event is intended to push lawmakers and Gov. Susana Martinez – who has vowed she won’t approve a tax increase – to reach a compromise to boost education funding before the 60-day legislative session ends Saturday.

A statement from Santa Fe Public Schools said that “after careful review of input, statutory attendance requirements and her commitment to ensuring that our students recognize every school day matters,” Superintendent Veronica Garcia approved the early school closures.

“As the top educational leader of the District, I have the responsibility to ensure the integrity of the education program and I truly believe that every day matters,” Garcia said in a letter to staff, parents and the community posted on the district’s website. “It pained me to consider giving up a school day. The financial situation of the District is dire and will only get worse if there is not a compromise between the Legislature and the Governor.”

On Tuesday, Garcia had announced that there might be no classes or only a partial school day today for a “day of action” to call for increased school funding in whatever budget makes it through the Legislature and gets Martinez’s signature. The Governor’s Office called the idea a “political stunt” that “shortchanges students.”

The school district asked for public input on whether schools should be canceled entirely, just a half day, or not at all by posting a survey on its website. While 80 percent of the 5,000 respondents voted to cancel school all day, Garcia decided on an early release. Elementary and K-8 schools in Santa Fe will dismiss students at noon. Middle and high school students will be released at 1 p.m.

SFPS has partnered with the support group Communities in Schools and city government to provide after-school programs at Salazar and Cesar Chavez elementary schools, El Camino Real Academy, Aspen Community School, Ortiz Middle School, Capital High School and Engage Santa Fe from the time of release to 5:30 p.m.

There also will be “limited transportation” to and from today’s rally, with shuttles leaving at scheduled times from five school locations and returning between 4 and 5 p.m. A school district spokesman said the local National Education Association teachers’ union is providing funding for the rides.

Garcia said Tuesday SFPS is facing a $5.5 million shortfall next school year. That could mean loss of 80 jobs, pay cuts, larger class sizes, cuts to music, arts and athletic programs, and the loss of 15 school days, she said.