by Joshua Kellogg, Farmington Daily Times
June 6, 2016

FARMINGTON — Farmington students could see a change in the upcoming school year as the district administrators look to switch a number of school days from an early release to a delayed start.

Administrators for the Farmington Municipal School District have been working on a plan to switch the 18 scheduled early-release days to 15 delayed-start days for the 2016-2017 school year.

The district’s Board of Education could possibly vote on a modified 2016-2017 district calendar at its Thursday meeting, Superintendent Gene Schmidt said.

In a letter written by Schmidt that was posted to the district’s website, he says the reason for the proposed change comes from discussions with district principals, who believe training would be more effective in the morning and less disruptive to afternoon and after-school activities.

Assistant superintendent Phil Valdez said the new bell schedule is nearly identical to the schedule currently used when weather delays the start of school.

Schmidt said he recognizes the proposed change will be an inconvenience for parents as they try to provide child care for students. He added he hopes parents understand the proposed change is being made to improve professional development for teachers and principals.

According to the proposed plan, a two-hour delay would be introduced to the start of the second and fourth Monday of the month when school is in session.

Early-release days were scheduled on Wednesdays during the 2015-2016 school year.

When board members approved the 2016-2017 district calendar during their March 10 meeting, they moved the early-release days from Wednesday to Monday.

Valdez and Schmidt both said while district had 11 schools that received A grades from the New Mexico Public Education Department for the 2014-2015 school year, the district’s reading and math proficiency, and high school graduation rate needs to improve.

About 28 percent of the district’s fourth-grade students met or exceeded expectations on the English language arts portion of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) for the 2014-2015 school year, according to the 2015 New Mexico Kids Count report released by the nonprofit New Mexico Voices for Children in January.

The same report states about 7 percent of the district’s eighth-grade students met or exceeded expectations on the math portion of the PARCC exam for the 2014-2015 school year.

In Schmidt’s letter, he states about 35 percent of the students in the district are proficient in reading and math.

“In my mind, that is not A (grade) school work,” Schmidt said. “A (grade) school work is 100 percent graduation, 100 percent proficiency. We believe that every child can succeed in some fashion.”

Schmidt said the district has learned from a community survey that parents want to see an increase in student achievement. He believes the additional time will benefit teachers and principals in developing strategies to use in the classroom.

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