RIO RANCHO — Rio Rancho Public Schools is still exploring the idea of a balanced calendar, though any major changes won’t be made until the 2025-26 school year.

In October, the district sent out a survey to parents, teachers and community members on the idea, which includes the same number of days at the current traditional calendar but would have a shorter summer break with longer breaks dispersed throughout the school year.

Last month, Superintendent Dr. Sue Cleveland presented the survey results to the school board.

A total of 3,106 people responded to the survey by the Nov. 3 deadline, with about 50% in favor of pursuing a balanced calendar. About a third responded they preferred to keep the current calendar, while the rest were undecided or wanted more information.

“We wish even more would have let us know, but I think 2,000 (parent responses) is pretty representative, and we’re really pleased that people took the time to tell us what they think,” Cleveland said.

When asked if a committee should be formed to explore the balanced calendar concept, nearly 60% were in favor of doing so with just under a third opposed; the remaining 13% were unsure.

“I think even people who maybe aren’t sure, really supportive, (think) let’s look at it in greater detail because there’s so many things we need to think about and consider, and as we move forward, I’m sure there’s some we haven’t even thought of yet,” Cleveland said.

Parent responses

Of the total responses, the majority of them (2,165) came from parents.

In the parent group, 47% said they thought pursuing a balanced calendar was a good idea while 36% prefer to keep the current calendar. The remaining 17% were undecided or wanted more information. Parents were 57% in favor of forming a committee with 31% opposed to it and 12% unsure.

Cleveland said the district was surprised by the responses on child care. Forty-five percent of parents said they don’t need child care during school breaks, while about 37% use a family member or friend. Another 8% said they use a child care center, while 10% responded “other,” such as siblings, camps, stay-at-home-parent, telework, taking leave).

“This was a shocker,” Cleveland said. “We really thought that child care on a balanced calendar would be the greatest prohibitor in moving forward with it, and it didn’t happen at all based on the people who responded.”

If RRPS moves forward with a balanced calendar, 66% of parents said they would leave their children enrolled with the district; 19% were uncertain and 15% said the would seek education outside of the district.

Employees

A total of 1,238 staff members participated in the survey with about 55% saying pursuing a balanced calendar is a good idea. About 29% preferred to keep the current calendar, while 16% were undecided or wanted more information.

In regards to forming a committee on the issue, 65% were in favor, 24% were against with the remaining 11% unsure. Seventy percent said they would continue to work with RRPS if one were implemented while 22% said they were uncertain it would impact their decision to work for the district; 8% said they would seek employment elsewhere.

“I’ve heard it a lot in meetings, which you’ve heard of other places: Teachers are tired,” Cleveland said. “The challenges are great, and having a little longer break during the year just might be what they need to rejuvenate and keep going.

“If we don’t decide before the end of the semester, if we go into the second semester, in the spring, it’s going to be too late and at the very least we would have to wait another year before we actually move with a calendar change, so a decision to move with this would have to be made very soon if we were to go in that direction,” she added.

Next steps

After hearing the survey results, board members were on board with forming a committee to explore the pros and cons of a balanced calendar. However, they opted to hold off on making any changes until the 2025-26 school year.

“I already have my summer planned out,” said board President Amanda Galbraith. “If we did move forward, it’s good to look at it now, but that doesn’t mean that we necessarily can implement it this coming school year.”

Board member Gary Tripp also wanted to hold off on making any rushed decisions, saying there are a lot of outside factors to consider, including a Rio Rancho workforce that largely commutes to other cities such as Santa Fe or Albuquerque.

He was also concerned about the impact on activities and programs students participate in, both during and outside the school year.

“I know it’s not right to say this, but we’re in a day and age of what I call ‘club world,’ so our fine arts departments and our athletic departments need to be in close communication with everything that’s out there going on, fighting for kids. I don’t want to lose programs or programs to suffer on our end, and that might be a reality if you change a master calendar like this,” Tripp said. Those entities, including the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, which hosts services for kids during breaks, “would have to be really connected to it.”

Noreen Scott, Jessica Tyler and Jeffry Morgan all agreed to forming a committee but holding off on any decisions until the 2025-26 school year.

On Monday morning, Beth Pendergrass, chief communications, strategy and engagement officer for RRPS, confirmed they are moving forward with a committee, saying it will be comprised of school board members; staff representatives such as teachers, administrators, the Rio Rancho Schools Employees’ Union, and representatives from athletics, fine arts, facilities management and the calendar committee; parents; community members; and organizations providing summer camps and other activities outside the regular school term.

“The committee’s primary task is to thoroughly examine the potential benefits and challenges associated with a balanced calendar for RRPS,” she said. “Their recommendations will play a pivotal role in guiding the board’s decision-making process.”