Rebuttal To Balanced Calendar Presentation At Monday’s LAPS Meeting

Los Alamos

I’m grateful to the school for providing more information about the calendars during Monday’s presentation and Q&A. I am concerned about the balanced calendar presentation. 17 minutes out of one hour were given to Tony Hinojosa to discuss the Balanced Calendar, Calendar B. No time was provided for presentations in favor of a traditional or more hybrid calendar, Calendars A and C. We were given a sales pitch for Calendar B that was studded with fallacies, some factual errors, and general oversimplifications. Given the very public format of the meeting, I feel like a public rebuttal is also warranted. I deeply respect that the opinions shared belong to Mr. Hinojosa, represent his voice, and thank him for sharing them. I am confident that he has shared them with the best of intentions.

Agrarian Calendar—Or is it?

The saying goes that our current calendar is “agricultural”, and surmises that our current calendar is therefore outdated. This simply isn’t true. The current, traditional school calendar is not agrarian. Agricultural calendars provided breaks during the two busiest growing seasons: sowing and reaping. Under an agrarian calendar, students were sent to school during the summer and the winter, while being granted time off during the spring to plant, and the autumn to harvest. Ironically, balanced calendars look more like an agrarian calendar than our traditional one. On the other hand, urban calendars were often year-round, and sometimes had many more days of school than we have now. The families who could afford to do so, fled the cities during the summer to take solace in cooler areas creating largescale absenteeism. It was this trend that would become the origins for a summer vacation when school calendars were later reformed and compulsory education was added. Don’t believe me? I’ve summarized the linked article—check it out for yourself. (Melker & Weber: Agrarian Roots? Think Again. Debunking the Myth of Summer Vacation’s Origins)

Either way, the origin of our current calendar has little to do with whether or not it serves our purposes. To make a conclusion in favor or against our current calendar based upon historical roots would be fallacious. The questions before the community are twofold. What are our academic and non-academic priorities and opportunities for students, families, staff and the community, today? Which calendar best serves those needs? 

Just Because it’s Change, Doesn’t Mean it’s Good

The “change is hard” argument is based upon the idea that change is hard or scary, and therefore people avoid it. It’s almost suggesting that proponents of the traditional calendar don’t know their own mind, and just need to trust that others know best. Citing fear of change to undermine valid concerns is gaslighting. Those who support calendars A or C deserve to have their voices be heard, not invalidated. Instead, let’s just listen and hear one another. Maybe we do all know exactly what we need, and how to estimate the value of our time. Using change as an argument for a balanced calendar is also fallacious. Change can be hard, and still be good. Similarly, just because it’s change, doesn’t mean that it’s good.

Enrichment, More School, or Inequality?

Mr. Hinojosa presented intercession enrichment suggestions: summer school-like remediation, field trips, and fun activities. Before the community can reflect too deeply on any of these options, we must realize that they are not funded. Without funding lined up, they are ideas that may not be fulfilled.

Moving field trips to intercessions is inequitable. Not all students will have the same access to this part of their general education. Field trips need to be available to all students during a regularly scheduled school day. 

The students who experience conditions like anxiety or depression at school, are often the students that find the academic environment in school unwelcoming. These are the students who most often need remediation. They also really need a break. Students need to be able to do activities where they find success, so that they can build up their sense of self, and begin to see how much they offer to our world by being in it. While opinion and needs will vary depending on the student, I’ve heard many families that represent the neurodivergent community state that it’s easier to juggle remediation over the summer break. Intercessions may be too short for both remediation and rest. Not providing the same time away from school for students with these needs, often students who have disabilities, can become discriminatory and inequitable. This is a subject that needs far more discussion. We need to really consider if these students will be enriched, or if instead, they will effectively lose their breaks. Any promises for remediation are premature.

Increased Discipline in October and March

Mr. Hinojosa casually connected two phenomena in a way to suggest a causal relationship. He put together an increase in discipline occurring during October and March, with the observation that these are longer schooling months. The assumption: students need an intersession. Valid concern.

October and March are also when the first and third quarters close. Students are racing to get late work turned in, study for tests, and do make-up work. Some students are facing the prospect of failure. I’m not sure if we need a break to decrease the stress and discipline related issue, or if we need more scaffolding to support these students throughout the quarter? Let’s ask questions about this and be curious, so that we might discover the problem, and craft a solution.

More Fact Checking 

Members of the community have asked intelligent questions about switching to a balanced calendar. They have expressed intelligent concerns. Solutions to these concerns were oversimplified. The valid concerns were represented as “misinformation”.

Pools: There is concern about how the member-based, outdoor pools will be affected with a reduced summer break. The answer will be more sophisticated than a glance at the calendar. Families drive pool membership, which is very expensive. Many families already teeter on whether or not the cost of the assessment exceeds the value of the membership. Families can find it hard to go to the pool on school nights. There is a legitimate concern that pool memberships will drop too low to maintain the assessment required for operations. This is a question that pool boards need to address and answer for the public.

Employment: I believe that the presentation underestimated the full spectrum of opportunities teens have over a longer summer break. I know several teens who have been employed at scout camps for the entire summer, lifeguarding is popular, along with the pool basket rooms. The Youth Conservation Corps is AMAZING. (Thank you for your work). The internships at LANL provide an incredible opportunity for students. The list is so much longer than this. It’s possible that our community can adjust to a new schedule, but it wasn’t fair to oversimplify the plethora of opportunities our teens seek in the summer. It wasn’t fair to undermine the risk of lost opportunity.

Pajarito: Suggesting that kids could work at Pajarito to make up for lost summer opportunities was short sighted. According to Mr. Hinojosa, getting teens to work at Pajarito is supposed to help the mountain operate during the school week and support the PE ski program. I’m honestly confused about how this is supposed to work. The winter break is the same across all three calendars. During the last two years, Pajarito has not had enough snow to open for winter break. No employment, no skiing. The teens are in school M-F so they can’t operate the lifts during the week for PE. They would have no more opportunity at Pajarito than they do now. 

Childcare: The presentation shared several possible providers for childcare during intercessions. When asked, Mr. Hinojosa admitted that he only contacted one organization about childcare. Our community must address the issue of intersession childcare. Working families often take winter and spring breaks off from work currently, avoiding the need for childcare during the school year. Adding in more breaks may exceed the vacation time these families have. The demand for childcare may increase, but we don’t yet know if the capacity will follow to meet that demand. We need to have real capacity conversations. These answers need to come directly from the organizations that provide childcare.

I truly do thank Mr. Hinojosa for sharing his ideas. I hope that we can continue to have careful and honest conversations about the calendar.