The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Officials split on extended school year


September 29, 2018

New Mexico lawmakers are looking at ways to extend the school year for students in the Land of Enchantment by 10 days or more, according to a report from The Associated Press.

Officials at eastern New Mexico’s two largest school districts expressed different feelings about the idea when they talked to The News on Friday.

Clovis Municipal Schools Superintendent Jody Balch said he had no issues with extending the school year, provided the Legislature finds a way to account for the salary increases that would be required for school staff.

“If it raises (staff members) pay by 10 contractual days, that’s a good bump for them for income,” Balch said. “It also utilizes the taxpayer facilities for a larger number of days in a year instead of them being idle. More instruction is going to help kids, so I don’t see the downside to it.”

Meanwhile Portales Municipal Schools Superintendent Johnnie Cain said he sees no reason to extend the school year for all students.

“We already do 1,080 hours a year in high school so I don’t know that it needs an extension. There may be some students who need more time and we’ve got programs for that,” Cain said. “I think you can really find the kiddos that need that and have them go longer if their parents would like it without having to do it to everybody.”

Cain said Portales schools have a program called “Jump Start” for students in grades one through three — about 40 of them participated this past summer — where kids go to school for three weeks prior to the first official school day of the year.

“We offer them that so that we can try to get a jump start on them before the year starts, make sure any skills that they lost over the summer they can get them back and go. But I don’t know that every kid needs an extra 10 days of school,” Cain said.

Balch said Clovis has a similar program for elementary students who need help with reading and math where they start coming in 25 days prior to the start of school. He said the district has had that program in place for a few years, with this summer marking the highest participation with about 230 students.

Cain said Portales also began an expanded online summer school program this year for students looking to make up credits, with about 40 students each from the junior high and high school participating this year.

According to the AP report, part of the Legislature’s efforts are based around shortening the summer break, which Balch said could be achieved by having students attend school year-round.

“I don’t know if it will ever happen but it makes sense to me that year-round school with something like you go nine weeks, you get a week off, you go nine weeks, you get a week off,” Balch said. “Keeps the buildings utilized to a larger extent and again there’s not a large time lapse from learning.”

Cain said he does not think the length of the summer break is big problem.

“For some kids it is (an issue) but I don’t think it’s that big of a deal,” Cain said. “Usually when you come back to school you spend a week or two just reviewing some things to try to be ready and you’re ready to go.”


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