The Roswell Independent School District school board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to delay the start of the 2020-21 school year by two weeks. The first day of classes will be Aug. 19.
Superintendent Mike Gottlieb and Board President Alan Gedde said they fully realized the effect the change will have on the entire community and the polarizing effect it might have, but said it was the best way to ensure schools can open as safely as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Board member Hilda Sanchez was the lone dissenting vote. During discussion of the calendar, she advocated for delaying school until after Labor Day, Sept. 7, to further ensure student and staff safety.
“One of the things that has become apparent is our early start may not be the very best for our children,” Gottlieb said of the original Aug. 5 first day of classes.
Delaying the start of school gives the district time to study any upcoming health orders from the governor and help ensure the necessary supplies will arrive in time, he said.
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It will also help the district accommodate the state’s recommendation to add 10 days to the school year to help make up for instructional time lost in the spring. That recommendation came during the Legislature’s special session in June to revise the budget.
“I like the idea of two weeks late. I really don’t like it, but I understand it’s what we have to do,” Gedde said. “I know it’s only two weeks, but kids are struggling.”
Gedde advised the board members they will have to present a unified message on the late start.
“We’re definitely not going to make everybody happy, so we’re going to have to deal with this,” he said.
“Our first and foremost concern of all of us is the safety of our students and staff. We want them to be as safe as possible,” Gottlieb said.
Not all of the supplies have arrived, even though some were ordered months ago, he said. In response to a question from board member Hope Morales, Gottlieb outlined some of the supplies the district is still waiting on, including masks for students, specialized wipes and other chemicals for each classroom, dividers for nursing stations and mobile carts for nurses to tend to students’ everyday aches and pains, Gottlieb said.
“It will also help us make sure we have everything covered from the PED (Public Education Department). There is nothing worse than making a plan and then having to go backwards,” he said.
Morales said she initially had concerns about the delay, but heard from teachers and parents who said they preferred having the extra time.
“They don’t want to feel like they’re rushed and that the focus is on the quality of instruction,” she said.
In the new calendar, the spring semester will be longer than the fall semester by 16 student days, and Thanksgiving and the winter breaks will be shortened by two days each.
Thanksgiving break, originally scheduled for the entire week of the holiday, will be only three days, Wednesday Nov. 25, through Friday, Nov. 27.
Winter break, originally scheduled to begin Friday, Dec. 18 — a full week before Christmas — will now start Tuesday, Dec. 22. Classes will resume on Monday, Jan. 4, which was originally scheduled as a professional development day for faculty.
The fall semester will offer a total of 86 student days and 88 days for staff. In the spring, there will be 102 days for both students and staff.
Much of the spring semester calendar will remain the same through April. Rather than ending classes on Thursday, May 20, as originally scheduled, however, students will continue classes through Monday, June 7. Memorial Day, Monday, May 31, will be a holiday.
The baccalaureate program and high school graduation days will be scheduled in June.
Only one day — the first day of classes in August — is scheduled for parent-teacher conferences. On that day, teachers will be reaching out to parents online or on the phone to check in with them. Gottlieb said he wanted to wait and see how the pandemic progresses before scheduling any conference in the spring semester.
City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or email@example.com.