Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — Wednesday afternoons it is.
After weeks of revisiting the 2013-2014 Alamosa School District (ASD) calendar, the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) unanimously approved a schedule not too far off from what came across its table two months ago. The ASD will provide teachers enrichment sessions called Professional Learning Communities (PLC) on Wednesday afternoons, sending Alamosa Elementary (AE) students home at 1:15 p.m. and all secondary students home at 1:40 p.m. The only difference from the calendar proposed in February is the release time, which had AE students leaving campus at 12:45 p.m. and all secondary students out of class at 12:55 p.m.
“We weighed all of the options,” said AHS teacher John Dodds, who was also part of the 12-member calendar committee. “When we walked away both times, I was confident we did what was right for the students.”
Reasons for the Wednesday decision included increased PLC time and a history of Friday early release absentee students and teachers.
“The risk is too high,” said ABOE Official Christine Haslett. “It’s too easy to pull kids out.”
This decision came in spite of the Alamosa Parent Advocacy Group for Education's (A-PAGE) opposition and attempts to persuade the ABOE with data and parent input, which worked when the calendar was sent back to the drawing board. Earlier this month, A-PAGE held an online poll asking parents which of the three revisited and proposed calendars they preferred. Out of 111 votes, 77 were in favor of a Friday early release, 28 were in favor of a Monday early release and only six were in favor of the Wednesday schedule.
“We felt it was important for parents to cast their votes,” said A-PAGE acting chair and District Accountability Committee (DAC) President Coleen Astalos. “Friday was far and above the highest choice.”
A-PAGE is also afraid the ABOE approved a calendar in violation of the Colorado Compulsory School Attendance Law requiring elementary students to attend school for 968 hours in a school year and secondary students for 1,056. The law also states schools will be in session for at least 160 days without the prior approval of the commissioner of education. According to the group’s data, the approved calendar cuts short secondary students 71 hours or 11 school days.
ASD Superintendent Rob Alejo, however, confirmed the Colorado Department of Education (CDE) signed off on the calendar, which includes passing periods to meet the state minimum yet contradicts ASD’s policy. The policy states “actively engaged in the educational process” shall not include: lunch; time students spend before school waiting for classes to begin and time after the last class of the day, including waiting for the bus; recess time; teacher preparation time; and passing periods between classes.
“As for this board policy, we were not aware of it,” wrote ABOE Official Keith Vance in an email on Wednesday. “I do not know why we would have a policy that is inconsistent with the state requirement, but it is apparently a carry over policy from years back that never got amended. We are going to do the calculation ourselves to see if we need to change the policy.”
The ABOE is also considering working with Adams State University (ASU) to offer students courses on early release days. Students might have the opportunity to receive university credit if they take advantage of the opportunity.
“Good things are happening in the Alamosa School District,” wrote ABOE Official Erica Romero in an email Tuesday. “We really need to give credit to our administration and our staff... The calendar is a difficult topic, but I believe we have chosen the best fit for right now with hope of opportunities to fall into place. I support our teachers and value their opinions and trust that they will support our decisions.”