Rio Rancho Public Schools is asking parents for feedback on a proposed “balanced” calendar.
The balanced calendar includes the same number of days as the current traditional calendar but would have a shorter summer and longer breaks dispersed throughout the school year.
“A balanced calendar would mean that students would need less review time after breaks, which would result in more time for new learning,” RRPS Communications Director Wyndham Kemsley said. “It would also provide students with extra help during the school year as well as during breaks. Finally, studies have shown that balanced calendars result in less burnout, fewer absences, more engagement from students and better lesson retention. However, there are some challenges that arise with a balanced calendar such as the need for parents to find extra child care options during longer breaks, shorter summers, which reduces potential time for summer jobs, and impacts on traditional school activities and athletics.”
One of the calendar options includes two weeks off for fall break, a week at Thanksgiving, followed by a normal winter break and then a condensed summer.
Parents and staff have until Nov. 3 to complete the survey.
“If the survey results reflect a substantial interest in the district instituting a balanced calendar, we will put together a committee to study its feasibility in detail and determine next steps,” Kemsley said.
Billie Helean, a first-grade teacher at Ernest Stapleton Elementary School and the president of the Rio Rancho School Employees’ Union, said since the balanced calendar would not add or take away any days or hours from the school year, it does not need to be negotiated with the union.
“Let’s say the survey comes back and families are strongly in favor of a balanced year and the staff are strongly not in favor of the balance year, it presents a problem because, although it doesn’t change the number of days, the district could technically change it because that’s what parents wanted,” Helean said. “However, I think the district would face a challenge because many staff may decide that they want to look elsewhere for employment if they went ahead with it without staff buy in. I don’t think they would do that, to be honest with you. I think the district would be very respectful of whatever the majority says, but it may end up being tricky in the end.”
Helean said that while the union does not lean one way or another on the proposed calendar, there are pros and cons to the idea.
“The balanced calendar gives teachers a little bit better of an edge as far as getting kids caught up and keeping them caught up,” Helean said. “The con for teachers really is that summer break being a little longer, really is recovery time after a full school year. So it makes it harder when the summer is a little bit shorter. But really, we’ve never done a balanced calendar here before. So it’s new, and I think is a little daunting for staff.”
RRPS emphasized that no decisions have been made and the survey is simply to know what parents think.
According to RRPS, these are potential benefits and challenges associated with a balanced calendar:
- Less review time needed after a long summer break, so more time for new learning
- Extra help when needed during the school year during breaks
- Less burnout and fewer absences, more engaged students, better lesson retention
- More family vacation options
- Finding child care during breaks
- Shorter summers
- Less time for summer jobs
- Impacts on school activities and athletics