LOS LUNAS—After criticisms of the previously proposed 205-day “opportunity calendar,” as dubbed by Los Lunas Superintendent Arsenio Romero, the Los Lunas Board of Education unanimously approved a 186-day calendar after receiving community and union input.

“We got some wonderful feedback from across our community about how that calendar was built and put together,” Romero said.

Romero presented two calendar options to the board with varying dates for spring break and observance of Veterans Day. Both options were established by the calendar committee — which is made up of teachers, staff and parents — and were negotiated with the local teachers’ union.

According to Deborah Elder, the Los Lunas Schools chief academic officer of instruction who represented the calendar committee during the May 11 meeting, the calendar had to include 10 more instructional days than the district had two years ago.

Since they had 176 instructional days during the 2019-20 school year, this calendar had to include at least 186 instructional days in order to comply with the requirements set by the Extended Learning Time Program.

The two calendar options were also put to a vote by parents, staff and other community members through a survey with majority support given to the first option, which includes a spring break coinciding with The University of New Mexico and observes Veterans Day on Friday Nov. 12, instead of Nov. 11.

Of the 1,343 respondents, about two-thirds voted in favor of the first school calendar option. According to the district, the survey was available from April 30 until May 4 and was emailed to all staff, parents and community members whose contact information they had.

In the approved 2021-22 calendar, teachers start on Aug. 2 with students back in the classroom on Aug. 4, with school ending on May 26 for students and May 27 for teachers.

Other breaks include Labor Day, Fall Break and Indiginous People’s Day on Oct. 8 and 11, Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Good Friday. It will also include five professional development days for teachers.

When pressed by board president Eloy Giron, Elder said the shortfalls in student achievement, specifically in the district’s freshman and sophomores, were not directly addressed by the calendar committee. She said the committee was focused on dates and the logistics of the schedule.

Romero said he is considering different options to increase student outcomes, which includes the district-wide, 205-day opportunity calendar he originally proposed in April.

“Absolutely this is one option to have help in that and to be able to solve that issue but, there are definitely other avenues that we are looking at to also increase outcomes for students,” Romero said. “Some of those include making our principals better principals, allowing our teachers to be able to have access to the best technology and professional development, really supporting teachers when it comes to how we design lessons.

“These are all parts of a larger recipe to be able to do that, but I do know that (the opportunity calendar) is something that, when it comes to additional time with teachers, that the board has relayed to me as something that can be important and a direction that we can continue to go in.”

Romero said there are plans to create another calendar committee this summer to jump start conversations with all the stakeholders.

“We are going to need to have discussion on actually why we are going to consider more days of instruction, more time with teachers and the benefits we see coming out of that discussion based on that,” he said.

“I’m glad that we took a step back a little bit and we are going to involve everybody that we can,” board member Bryan Smith said. “I think it’s going to be a long process, but when we get the community and the parents and the teachers, maybe even students involved, it’s going to be something that we as a school district can own, that we can believe in and that we can move forward with. We’re going to be so much better off to that end.”

Makayla Grijalva was born and raised in Las Cruces. She is a 2020 graduate of The University of New Mexico, where she studied multimedia journalism, political science and history. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, SODA and the town of Peralta.