BY LAUREN COUPLAND
Candidate For LAPS Board
On the agenda for Thursday’s School Board meeting, item 8.3 is entitled “Procedures for Reviewing School Calendar.” In the spring, the calendar items generated large public engagement, and calendar preparations for the 24-25 school year have been highly anticipated.
As a member of the calendar committee and a school board candidate, I’d like to provide some extra context to the school calendar discussions. The LAPS calendar committee met weekly in February and March 2023 to discuss the impacts of the developing legislation, and how to best address the changes that would be coming.
We discussed multiple options – longer days, longer traditional calendar, a balanced calendar, and other creative solutions. After several meetings, Superintendent Guy asked for a presentation on the case for keeping a traditional calendar over a balanced calendar. As I had been vocal in my concerns with a balanced calendar, I was asked to present. My presentation to the committee, which was subsequently shared with the board, can be found here.
I closely followed the ever changing legislation, reading the bills and proposed amendments, attending legislative committee meetings, and contacting representatives. I proposed possible calendars, as well as creative ways to count days such as a soft start plan that would allow us to count days such as meet-the-teacher.
There was a lot of confusion and rumor, helped along by the constantly changing legislation. Amendments changing the requirements were still being made less than 24 hours before the legislation was passed on March 12. In order to combat the confusion and create transparency, I took it upon myself to create a document explaining some of the process, and correcting misconceptions.
LAPS and the Board did seek feedback from stakeholders about which calendar to choose. There were surveys and opportunities for public comment. However, many felt the process was rushed, and unavoidably, it was. There were only 14 days between the bill’s last amendment and the School Board vote selecting a calendar. Many people wanted to see alternatives, such as a longer day, and were disappointed when that wasn’t an option. While the committee did look into these options, we quickly realized that with our time constraints and structural realities, this was not feasible for the 23-24 school year. Changing the start and end times was far more complicated than adding days. Funding and bussing were the two biggest roadblocks, as shared bussing means that any timing shift has a domino effect. At this same time, it was unclear exactly what funding would look like, other than adding days would give more funding
than just adding hours. With only two weeks to solicit and incorporate public feedback before finalizing a decision, hard choices had to be made.
During the calendar committee meetings, there were many creative ideas on how we could make the extra days and hours meaningful. I hoped that there would be follow through after the calendar was chosen, and that we could implement something like Santa Fe School District’s Social-Emotional Learning Days.
This year, there is a short legislative session, and no indication that there will be any changes to school hour and day requirements. We just finished our first ever fall break – I have heard from people who loved it, and who hated it. Childcare challenges, difficulty moving in and out of a routine, and effects on local business have been some of the complaints that I have heard. We will have another new break soon, with the full week off at Thanksgiving. I look forward to more feedback from the community.
I am eager to hear what Superintendent Guy will share on Thursday, regarding how feedback will be incorporated. I am planning to attend the school board meeting on Thursday and I am eager to hear how stakeholder and community feedback will be incorporated into future calendar discussions. I agree with Sarah White’s public comment asking for a firm start date. I encourage the district to reconvene the Calendar Committee very soon so that we can have the time to seek, review and explore creative ideas that add value for students, teachers, and families with a better understanding of funding realities. This will also provide more time to brainstorm solutions to complicated problems like transportation. It is essential that there are opportunities for all voices in the community to be heard and considered in a transparent fashion.