BY CELINNA MORGAN
The school board faces an important decision regarding the school calendar for the 2023-24 school year. The school board has to implement HB 130, which increases instructional time for students. The school is also discussing a traditional calendar versus a balanced calendar, and a hybrid companion. They have to adopt a calendar by April 18th. Due in part to the legislative session and outcomes, this gives them only one month to sift through all of these ideas, and try to gain conclusive, factual information and data to support a decision. Should they vote for a balanced calendar, it will have a huge impact on students, families, teachers, school staff and businesses across Los Alamos. I strongly urge the board to separate these ideas and tasks. With only one month to make a decision, please use these days ahead to focus on how to adopt a calendar that adds the required hours to the school year, but does not substantially change the flow of our calendar. This month, the school board can focus on how to implement HB 130 in a relatively status-quo, traditional calendar with minimal changes, and the recognition that there may be more days than 180 in the calendar. Vote on this, and then begin a discussion about a traditional vs. balanced calendar. Start the discussion about traditional vs balanced in April of 2023, and put it up for a vote in 2024.
It’s essential to garner the support of stakeholders, before asking them to change how they live and function in the community by adopting a balanced calendar, especially in regards to a compulsory calendar. The value of community polls was questioned during Tuesday’s meeting. Community feedback is paramount for a decision like this. School board members represent the public being polled. Having access to public polls that are gained from informative, clear, and unbiased surveys with full community access is an essential decision-making tool. Many stakeholders still don’t even know that the school board is considering this change. A 2024 vote on a traditional vs balanced calendar provides the time needed to give stakeholders a full discussion about the pros and cons of any calendars put before us. A year gives the school staff adequate time to make informed, data driven presentations. A decision like this should not be rushed.
I would also like to address a couple other ideas that crept into Tuesday’s school board meeting. The first is that because change is hard, those who support a traditional calendar are merely afraid of change. Though not worded specifically this way, the fallacy weaved itself into some of the comments of those who are in favor of a balanced calendar. Please do not invalidate the voices of your fellow community members by suggesting that there are no other reasons to prefer a traditional calendar than fear of change.
We also need to address bias. Bias in information, data, discussions, presentations, and surveys has little to do with intentions, and far more to do with representation, access, and language. While many of us have personal preferences and bias, those who present information to the public, from a position of authority, must be cautious to promote representation of diverse perspectives. I believe that open discussion from all perspectives over the next year is the fairest way to make such a big decision. Give us the time and space to be represented. We all have value.
I encourage the school board to keep the calendar simple this year, and vote for minimal changes. Engage the whole community in discussions throughout the upcoming year. Gather data, including community consensus.
Members of the community who seek to share their feedback or learn more can attend a calendar meeting on Monday, March 20 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. via zoom. The link is embedded in a March 12 newsletter from LAPS. The general community who is without access to newsletters, might look for the link on the LAPS Facebook Page. I’m certain that LAPS will find more ways to share access to this meeting.
The school board will be discussing the calendar again on March 23, at 5:30 p.m. via zoom, and at Mountain Elementary. The zoom link can be found online at this page: https://www.laschools.net/school-board/meetings.