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RISD board discusses changes to district calendar

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A first reading of the Roswell Independent School District calendars through the 2022-23 school year prompted discussion among school board members on March 10 about changes to spring break, the start of the school year and parent-teacher conferences.

Interim Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said March 11 that while the school board in recent years has set the district’s calendar year-by-year, doing so three years out was a common practice in the past.

Gottlieb said he didn’t know when the practice changed, but since being appointed to the position in January, he had received many requests from district employees and the community to return to the three-year calendar.

The calendar includes much more than when students are in class, Gottlieb said.

“We have to have a calendar to give to the state of New Mexico that proves we have the contract hours for teachers, that they’re meeting that standard. We have to show the number of days kids are going to school,” he said.

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It also shows vacation days, parent-teacher conferences, days for mandated development courses for teachers, and more.

“So a calendar is more than just days of school. It’s a lot of information wrapped up in a single sheet,” Gottlieb said.

The calendar must also show school is in session on certain days the district must report data to the state, called counting days.

“We have required days by the state of New Mexico they are checking our data. That’s part of our funding issue. They want to see if we’re recording and reporting everything correctly,” he said.

Those days are the 40th, 80th, 100th, 120th and the last day of school. All data required by state and federal agencies is accounted for on those days.

“We cannot interfere with those days at all. We must be in session and attend a full day,” he said.

Still, the district does have leeway in setting other dates, and the board discussed several ideas at the recent school board meeting, ultimately deciding to get more input.

Discussion was prompted by Board President Alan Gedde asking if spring break could coincide with the switch to Daylight Saving Time.

“We’re a week away from it each year,” he said, noting this year, the time change occurred in the same week as a full moon and Friday the 13th, which got a few laughs from the board and the audience.

Teachers on the calendar committee, however, requested spring break be pushed to later in the month, Gottlieb said, due to mandated testing and for warmer weather.

Board Secretary Hope Morales pushed for moving parent-teacher conferences from a Wednesday to Thursday evening and Friday morning. Last year, conferences were scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on a Wednesday, with the day off for students.

Board member Mona Kirk said having conferences on Friday would mean teachers who are coaches would not be available.

“I missed an enormous amount of teachers when we had them on Fridays because everybody was gone. It was a disaster,” she said.

Morales said including Thursday evenings for conferences would allow more flexibility.

Morales, one of two new members joining the board in January, said the calendar was one of the topics on which she received a large amount of feedback from the public.

“A majority of individuals — parents, teachers — had concerns about the Wednesday conference. For the teachers, they said it’s a disruption in the middle of the week. There were teachers that did like it,” she said.

“As for parents, they said it was hard for them to find sitters during the middle of the week. Wednesdays are also church night for many of our families,” she said.

Morales also said she heard from many people concerned about the start date of the school year so early in August.

“They threw out lots of ideas, perhaps a shortening of some of the holiday breaks and extending the school year out, but there was really a big request for us to start school the second week of August and not the first week,” she said.

Gedde said he had heard such requests as well, but said it would be difficult to take back days from holiday breaks. He noted it was about five years ago the district went from three days to a full week break for Thanksgiving.

“I don’t think we could get that back,” he said of a three-day break.

Gottlieb urged the board to accept the three-year calendar, in part because district events affect more than just students, staff and their families. Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell and New Mexico Military Institute also look to the district’s calendar, he said.

The board directed Gottlieb to get more input from teachers and parents on the topics. A vote to approve the calendar will be on the agenda for next month’s meeting.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.