By Kyle Smith / NM News Port
Most Albuquerque Public Schools parents like the idea of extending the school year from the first week of August through the last week of May and sending most elementary and middle school kids home early on Wednesdays. On the other hand, some parents and staff members do not agree with abrupt schedule changes.
That’s according to a survey APS conducted in March, which led to a vote to change the upcoming school year.
APS is also considering early release Wednesdays but some don’t like that idea. Katrina Garcia Spillman, head teacher at Edward Gonzalez Elementary School expressed her concern at the most recent APS Board of Education meeting.
“As a head teacher who worked in schools with modified Wednesdays for seven and a half years, this made scheduling very difficult” Spillman said.
Early release was also hard for working parents and defeats the purpose of additional instructional days for students, she said.
Example of upcoming 2023-2024 school calendar
New Mexico has historically ranked low amongst the nation’s rating for education every year, and the pandemic has prolonged the state’s opportunity to change that. While this is not the first time a bill that proposed extra school time has been introduced in New Mexico, this is the first time one has been agreed to and signed.
According to an analysis of House Bill 130, “compared with 2019 scores, New Mexico experienced a significant decrease in math and reading scores on the 2022 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), and is ranked last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia.”
The idea of additional education sounds excellent to make up for the lost time, there is something larger at stake: Parent, teacher, and student mental health.
Erin Rimorin, a former APS employee and now mental health therapist said there is more to additional school days than just education.
“I don’t think teachers have enough time to reset and decompress,” Rimorin said. “I don’t feel they are given enough time to work on their mental health, especially since they are at school all day long teaching children and sometimes parenting children as well.”
APS officials are also considering changing high school start times and are expected to release a plan when the idea is finalized.
According to the National Education Association, students who suffer from lack of sleep, especially ages 13-18, are more likely to suffer from depression which could keep them from excelling in the classroom.
One last concern with additional school days is demographics.
Districts in the state already suffer from a lack of teachers causing a lack of education for students. Some teachers would prefer the money being spent to pay teachers for additional work days would be more useful spent on hiring additional staff.
Despite personal feelings, the argument on smaller class sizes and teacher funding or additional school days may never end. Most districts have decided to add school time in hopes to see the state’s education levels rise.
APS has released a “quick glance” at the upcoming 2023-2024 school calendar on their website while the official calendar will be released once the final changes are made. School is set to start this year on August 3.