The 180- day school requirement, which was opposed by a majority of schools in New Mexico, will take effect on July 1, 2024, with new revisions that are under criticism.
The rule will allow for four-day weeks and, under certain circumstances, allow exemptions from the 180-day requirement. Socorro Consolidated Schools’ superintendent, Ron Hendrix, described the qualifications for exemptions as “unattainable” for schools in New Mexico. He said he felt the move from Public Education Department office was intentional to push for year around school.

“They brought their marching order from the governor, so they’re going to do their very best to continue to shine everybody on and tell everybody that’s what’s best for everybody,” Hendrix said.

Magdalena Schools’ current calendar has 157 days and would be required to add 23 more days, under the rule. Socorro Consolidated Schools’s calendar has 164 days, currently leaving them short 16.

Dr. Glenn Haven, superintendent of Magdalena Schools said he was disappointed with the rule, “it just doesn’t fit with our personality here at Magdalena schools…apparently local control of our school board is not a priority anymore with the PED and governor’s office.”

According to the PED, exemptions to the 180- day requirement will be offered to:

• School districts or charter schools with a proficiency rate in reading and language arts below 45 percent will be required to show a minimum improvement of 15 percentage points in these subjects to qualify for exemptions under the new guidelines.

• School districts or charter schools with a reading and language arts proficiency rate of 45 percent or more but less than 65 percent, will be required to increase scores at least 10 percentage points in achievement within these subjects to qualify for an exemption.

• School districts or charter schools that have a proficiency rate in reading and language arts of 65 percent or higher but below 80 percent are required to achieve a minimum growth of eight percentage points in these subjects to qualify for exemptions under the new guidelines.

• Should a school district or charter school attain a proficiency rate of 80 percent or higher in reading and language arts, it will qualify for an exemption from the 180 instructional-day mandate, irrespective of any further growth in these metrics.

The growth will be determined by state accountability assessments, including the New Mexico Measures of Student Success and Achievement, the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and, for any K-2 only charter schools, iStation, which students are due to take within the next month, with results expected in June.

Meanwhile school districts are required to provide two sets of calendars: one four-day and one five-day to the PED. Hendrix and Haven are concerned because a four-day calendar will have a different budget than a five-day calendar.

“Our calendars will guide our budget, but to what direction or what capacity? We don’t know yet,” Haven said.

Hendrix also expressed concern for retaining teaching staff through the changes.

“They gave teachers a 3% raise but insurance is going up 15%, so teachers are actually going lose money while they’re being asked to teach more days,” Hendrix said. “So, you can understand why the teachers are saying, I’m just going to retire or I’m going to go teach closer my house instead of driving an hour, and I don’t blame them.”

Hendrix and Haven said that in a superintendents’ meeting, a poll that was taken in favor of engaging in litigation against the PED rule.

“Most of the districts that were on the call last week, I didn’t hear one district say they’re not going to participate in the lawsuit,” Hendrix said.

In November, when the PED first proposed the changes to the public-school calendars they received the opposition of an overwhelming number of schools in New Mexico.

The rule originally proposed included an extension of school days to 180 total days from the 1,140-hour requirements stated in statute and a requirement of at least 50% of school weeks having five instructional days. This new calendar proposal came on the heels of HB 130 allowing for hours, not days, which was signed into a bill on March 17 of 2023.

Originally, it had required days and, according to Haven and Hendrix, legislators helped by pushing for hours instead of day requirements because of the negative impact it would have on four-day schools.

In December, The PED’s public hearing drew in over a hundred educators, parents and students from around the state, who spoke in opposition to the mandatory 180 days of school forcing districts into five-day weeks. Local superintendents and representatives of Socorro County schools joined in voicing their opinions.