Looking to the future, the 2023-24 school year and beyond, was the focus for the April 17 meeting of the Rio Rancho Public Schools Board of Education.

Coming up sooner than later, the board unanimously approved the district’s 2023-24 calendar (See it on the RRPS and Observer websites.)

The calendar is very similar to this year’s calendar, with a few notable changes:

  • There will be no more early release Wednesdays.
  • The half-day Extended Learning Time Program (ELTP) and virtual learning days have been removed.
  • Some expanded learning days for middle school and high school students have been included in the calendar. Students will attend school on these days, which will be dedicated to enrichment programs; social, emotional or academic interventions; or skills and competency-based applied learning.
  • Shining Stars Preschool (SSPS) will have a separate calendar, yet to be released.

Recently, RRPS Superintendent Sue Cleveland explained the proposed calendar to staff and parents in her weekly email, sent a few days before the April 17 school board meeting.

A couple (sic) key points, per Cleveland:

  • The first day of contract will be on Monday, July 31.
  • The first day of school for all grades will be Thursday, August 3.
  • The half-day ELTP days have been removed from the calendar and replaced with some full-day PD days throughout the school year.
  • Winter break will be December 25-January 5.
  • Spring break will be March 25-29.
  • The last day of school/contract will be May 24.

“Our proposed calendar meets the instructional hours as required for elementary and secondary schools,” she wrote.

Considering the state’s new guidelines for the New Mexico Pre-K grant, 540 hours plus an additional 90 hours of family engagement, are required for half-day programs, which applies to Shining Stars.

In order to meet those new requirements, the district had to look at adding additional hours to preschool instruction, and for that to happen, the district needed to consider having school for SSPS on Wednesdays.

Cleveland said if the district retained early-release Wednesdays, the school year probably wouldn’t end until late June or early July to account for those hours of instruction.

The district will adjust the bell schedules after reviewing results of a survey sent to parents and staff members in December.

  • Of the staff members who responded, 50.5% supported new start times and sought further study and reviewing options for the 2023-24 school year; 32.3% of staff members who responded were open to further study and considerations; 17.1% did not support any changes.
  • Of the parents who responded, 43.4% supported new start times for the 2023-24 school year; 38.8% were open to further study and considerations; and 17.8% did not support any changes.

A Start Time Committee, including teachers, administrators, representatives from athletics and fine arts, and parents has been meeting to study and review start times. Student needs, survey results, research, transportation challenges, new requirements from the state and removal of early release Wednesdays have been reviewed and start times will be adjusted – at a later date.

Because RRPS tends to align itself with the APS school year calendar, it is possible RRPS may do so with APS’s new start times, generally an hour later than this year.

At APS in 2023-24, middle schools will be in session from 9:15 a.m. to 4:15 p.m.; and high schools will generally go from 8:40 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.; elementary schools will be split into several groups, including some from 7:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., others from 8:05 a.m. to 3:05 p.m. and some from 8:05 a.m. to 3:35 p.m., with variation among individual schools.

CTE updates to be monthly

“CTE is on the move,” Larry Davis told the board, as he provided an update on that aspect.

Davis, to be the principal when the CTE building is operational — pegged to be August 2025 — said there are now 2,104 students at Cleveland High engaged in the limited CTE courses offered there, with 14 teachers; there are 2,059 students and 17 teachers involved in CTE at Rio Rancho High School. Independence High School has two students taking part in auto shop classes; the Cyber Academy doesn’t have any CTE students.

All told, including middle school students in CTE classes, the district has 6,805 CTE students.

“It’s really about staff excellence,” Chief Academic Officer Carl Leppelman said. “(CTE needs to be) meaningful and relevant to what we’re doing.”

As for the renovation at the CTE building, Chief Operations Officer Mike Baker said architects are working on the schematic plans for the building, formerly a call center.

“We don’t know the financial picture or the renovation cost,” Baker said, expecting funding to come from previous bond issues and next year’s bond issue, if approved by voters.

Central Community College of New Mexico (CNM), which is building the automotive facility on RRPS land near the CTE building, is expected to be completed in August 2025, Baker reported.

Board member Noreen Scott again was impatient, saying, “We’ve owned the building for 16 months” and urged the district to “step it up. … I get lots of questions about it.

Baker told her the district “had trouble” determining the curriculum for each trade and “it took a while to develop the partnership with CNM.”

Scott asked for CTE to be updated at each board meeting; Cleveland said she’d be sure to include it in her weekly superintendent report sent to board members.

In other matters at the April 17 meeting:

  • Beth Pendergrass, RRPS’s chief communications, strategy and engagement officer, gave a legislative update, which included good news for CTE: $40 million in non-recurring money for CTE and an increase in instructional materials funding was passed by the state legislature and approved by the governor.

When she finished outlining the good and the bad from the session — $1.3 million headed to RRPS, which would have helped alleviate the district’s $2 million transportation deficit, was line-item vetoed by the governor — Pendergrass said it was “a really great session.”

  • The board approved a New Mexico School Nurse Grant of more than $81,000, which will help the district replace 23 outdated automatic external defibrillators (AEDs) plus add some in buildings without them.
  • The board OK’d the application for an English Language Acquisition Grant for the 2023-24 school year, which will provide supplemental funds for English language learners at Puesta del Sol Elementary and Eagle Ridge Middle School.
  • The contract with the school’s auditor, Accounting and Financial Solutions in Farmington, was extended two years.
  • Policy 1001, dealing with transfers and primarily pertaining to athletics, was given a first reading.

The board meets again at 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 24. (Remove for print edition.)