LOS LUNAS — The Los Lunas Schools Board of Education unanimously approved a 187-day school calendar, with 191 days for teachers, for the 2022-23 school year after going to the community for input on two different 190-day calendars.

Following a presentation from Deborah Elder, LLS chief academic officer of curriculum, assessment and innovation, at the March 22 board meeting, Superintendent Arsenio Romero recommended the 187-day option to the board.

“Speaking with our union president, I had been going on the notion that we had an agreement from the union to be able to go with the 190 days,” Romero told the board. “I was recently informed that was no longer the case. So, I want to be able to respect the agreement that we have with the union.”

The recommended, and later-approved calendar is a variation of the community-favored 190-day option put out by the district last month, but pared back to only include 191 work days for teachers versus the originally proposed 196. The teacher union’s current contact with the district is for 191 work days.

NEA-Los Lunas president Margo Rivera told the News-Bulletin following the meeting that the union was in the process of approving 196 work days for teachers, amending their contract with the district, and was unaware of the 187-day option.

Click image to read: Community involvement in development of Los Lunas Schools calendar

“It was sort of a slap in the face when he said, ‘We thought that the union was on board,’” said Rivera, who was also a part of the LLS calendar committee. “Well, we were on board with him. We told him in September we would do our best to support this 196, and we did.”

When the board approved the calendar, union members still had until Friday, March 25, to vote on the additional contract days, which members approved. Romero told the News-Bulletin if NEA-Los Lunas approved 196 work days for teachers, he would consider going back to the board of education to approve the longer calendar.

“When they take those days away, they take away the prep time they had already talked about using, so we were pushing that idea,” Rivera said. “And all of a sudden, they didn’t even talk to us about it … and then we would say, ‘Oh, we will go back to our members.’ Where was that?”

Rivera said going forward, the union will continue to advocate for more preparation time for teachers during school hours and push the district to renegotiate contracts prior to the next year’s calendar being approved.

Romero said he had worked with the union since last summer and had perceived members to be supportive of the increase in work days. However, he was informed a few days prior to the meeting that NEA-LL members were not in support of the extra days, so he and his team developed a new game plan with the goal of the calendar being approved that night.

“Honestly, I would like to have (the calendar) out by December,” Romero said. “It’s important for high schools to have that to build their master calendars. It’s important to have it out with as much time as possible. The more time we have, the better it is.”

The approved 187-day calendar starts the year for students on Aug. 1, and July 27 for teachers. It includes five all-learner days sprinkled throughout the year.

All-learner days are school days when students  work from home on all-year projects assigned by the students’ teachers aimed to spark innovation and autonomy.

The approved calendar also includes an eight-week break for summer, a week off for Thanksgiving and the same breaks as offered in option one of the calendar, such as fall break aligning with Indigenous People’s Day and no school on Good Friday.

According to Los Lunas Board of Education policy 1.6.1, which was shown during the meeting within Elder’s presentation on the calendar, “the superintendent shall submit proposed calendars in advance of the meeting in which the calendars are to be considered for adoption.”

Board member David Vickers raised concerns about the now-approved calendar not being presented to the board prior to the March 22 meeting, with board president Sonya C’Moya confirming none of the board members had seen that version before it was recommended by Romero.

Romero told the News-Bulletin the approved calendar is a variation of the option one calendar, which was voted on by a majority of the community in February and that the board had received days before the meeting.

Before the options were presented to the board by Elder, only two community members were given the opportunity to voice their opinions on the proposed move to 190-days for students after following the district’s public comment process.

Vickers brought up the possibility of the board revisiting its own policies on public comment and the calendar process, to which C’Moya said they could discuss at a later date once Vicker’s could identify the exact policies he wanted to change.

According to board policy 2.8.8, only members of the public who complete a public comment form prior to the public comment section of the meeting shall be allowed to speak on an agenda item. If public comment is not specified on the agenda, the board has no obligation to include it during the meeting.

Public comment is not a requirement of the Open Meetings Act.

Extended Learning Time Program

Los Lunas Schools administration consideration of extending the school year to be in full compliance with the state’s Extended Learning Time Program.

The program allows the district to receive more funding for each student registered with the goal of providing more instructional time for students.

Romero said most of the funding received goes towards teacher and staff salaries, while the rest is put towards school supplies and transportation.

“I know there is this narrative out there that it goes to me or something like that. I’m already working, but it doesn’t change my contract,” Romero said. “I already work those days. The board doesn’t receive compensation in that term. The best way to describe it is that a vast majority of it goes towards teachers’ salaries.”

The district has been a part of the program since 2019 when it began increasing the length of the school year. Although it did not increase it to the full 190 instructional days, Romero assured the board they would still be in compliance with the Extended Learning Time Program since the district is still working towards the 190 days.

During Elder’s presentation, she said while the district cannot recoup all the educational time lost during the COVID-19 pandemic — which resulted in more than 18,400 total days absent for students across the district during the 2021-22 school year— ELTP could provide the resources to allow for more time in the classroom and rectify some of those losses.

During the meeting, Vickers asked Romero if the district absolutely had to continue to participate in the Extended Learning Time Program, to which Romero replied they are under no obligation to continue participation in the program if the board votes against it.

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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.