Courier staff writer
ALAMOSA — After months of debate, the Alamosa Board of Education (ABOE) voted 5 to 2 on Monday night to amend the Alamosa School District (ASD) instructional time policy.
The policy is now technically in line with state attendance law, which allows school districts to choose whether they want to include passing periods as instructional time. Prior to the amendment approved during the special meeting, the ASD policy did not consider passing periods “actively engaged in the educational process” along with 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 and teacher preparation time.
Since passing the 2013-2014 academic calendar in April, the policy has been scrutinized because the ASD must include the passing periods, 25 total minutes, to meet state standards, and it also tabled the approval of the Alamosa Education Association (AEA) Master Agreement, which the ABOE approved on Monday with the same 5-2 vote. ABOE Officials Keith Vance and Arlan Van Ry were the dissenters.
Vance has been against the policy change from the get-go, and maintained his stance on Monday.
“They (students) are not achieving educational objectives when they are walking down the hall,” Vance said. “...More instructional time is equal to more learning. I can’t in good conscience sign or put my stamp of approval on a band aid fix.”
His recommendation on the table to stop the amendment has been to: change the work day to not exceed 8.5 hours; remove the requirement that teachers have to arrive 15 minutes before and stay 15 minutes after their assigned work schedule, which would increase the school day 30 minutes; and include a work week clause to not exceed 40 hours, guaranteeing teachers are not working 8.5 hours, five days a week. This would increase instructional time upwards of 70 hours.
“It (the policy change) doesn’t make us look good,” Vance said. “We shouldn’t amend this policy. We are being fake if we do.”
Van Ry recommended that the ABOE move slow and steady with the decision, possibly increasing the school day over the years.
“It could make a difference,” Van Ry said. “There would be time for that one last question ... I would like to see something different.”
He added, “You can always change it again if it doesn’t work.”
ABOE Official Neil Hammer said, “We have to do the best we can ... we need to move forward.”
One way Alamosa High School (AHS) is moving forward is with a recent decision to start their school day five minutes earlier this fall at 8 a.m. instead of 8:05 a.m. The decision coupled with passing periods counted as instructional time keeps the school in state attendance compliance.
Ortega Middle School (OMS) students will also see an earlier start time this fall, a new start time to fall in between 7:50 and 8 a.m. since the last bus drops students of at 7:45 a.m.
Adams State University assistant to the president and ASD parent Julie Waechter said during the Monday night meeting the ABOE should not consider passing periods as instructional time, particularly because of below par state academic test scores and state graduation policy changes that would have prevented 40 2013 Mean Moose from receiving diplomas this year.
“Those are bad numbers,” Waechter said. “Those are very bad numbers.”
District Accountability Committee (DAC) president and ASD parent Coleen Astalos also recommended the ABOE not alter the policy because more time is needed to work on a solution.
Over the past several meetings, a number of ASD staff and students said they agreed with the policy change because passing periods are contact time, and did not particularly want to see an increase in the school day length.