BY NICK MARTIN
I’ve been torn on the recent commentary regarding our school calendar. I’ve seen lots of commentary thrown around about how we are one of the best school districts in the nation, or we have the best high school in the nation, or how our kids don’t need to attend school for extra days. Rarely have I seen a comment regarding the younger kids, outside of people yelling about Wednesday half-days (as a note, many of Albuquerque and Santa Fe elementary schools also do half-days one day a week, this isn’t unique to our district). Does anyone actually care about the kids in elementary schools and their families? Based on what I have seen in the community, it doesn’t seem like they do.
As a parent of one elementary school student, and soon to be two, I find the discourse solely focused on the older kids to be incredibly frustrating. I am a firm supporter of year-round schooling. I truly wish the school district would move in that direction. Putting aside the benefits for student education, and the removal of the need to relearn material the first few weeks of every school year, it is also beneficial for the parents of these younger children. The demographics of Los Alamos and White Rock have shifted dramatically over the past couple of decades. Gone are the days where only one parent in a family works. The cost of living here does not allow for that for anyone that has moved here in the past couple of years. Unfortunately, the community hasn’t responded to that. The half-days, the fall breaks, the Thanksgiving break, the winter breaks, the spring breaks, the parent-teacher conference weeks, the summer breaks, the days where schools are closed go on and on. Does anyone truly think that the parents get that many days off to take care of their kids during all of that?
The answer is most definitely no. I get a total of 20 days per year to cover all my time off: taking care of kids, sick days, doctor appointments, vacation, etc. The current calendar chosen for the next school year–the one rejected by the community, parents, staff, teachers, and students, but chosen by the school board—has a total of 28 days off not including holidays and the summer break. The days off are spread around such that no one is going to setup special childcare options. Add on top of that the fact that Los Alamos is a childcare desert where the need already far exceeds the availability. There are no options for working parents up here.
So, I ask the board, what are we supposed to do with our younger children, those who can’t take care of themselves like the middle and highschoolers? During these closures, is the school going to establish full-day childcare options? Is the school system going to subsidize local childcare providers to ensure there is an option for every elementary school student during all these closures? Or are kids living in a family with two working parents just forgotten in this community?
I already know the answer to this question. We are expected to figure it out for ourselves. We just have to make it work based on what a couple of powerful people decide with no understanding of the current community. What really should have happened, was a serious push towards having different calendars for different grade levels. Clearly, the needs of those students are vastly different. On the elementary end of the scale, students need to be in school as much as possible, while on the high school end, the students need breaks and the freedom to pursue extra curriculars. A single solution for these very different problems does not exist, and we shouldn’t pretend that it does.
Los Alamos, please stop forgetting about the younger kids and their families.