The Socorro Consolidated School District is considering a four day week for each school in the district.
Superintendent Ronald Hendrix said he first started considering the option when he came to the district due to having to replace 11 teachers. It was then no longer an option due to a line in the appropriations bill that said a district that is not a four-day week cannot become one.
“I was trying to tell the board this is an option that we can offer teachers as a perk or a bonus compared to other districts around us and that would get them here instead of going to Los Lunas or Albuquerque or Los Cruces,” Hendrix said.
This year, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham vetoed that line, which gives SCSD the opportunity to discuss that option again.
If the district decides to move to a four-day week, the students would still receive the same amount of instruction in a school year compared to a five-day week as the school day would be increased by roughly 30 minutes each day.
SCSD will also be offering a Friday program at each school along with an afterschool program at the elementary schools and Sarracino Middle School. At the elementary and middle school level, the district will have a partnership with the Rio Grande Educational Collaborative to run the programs. The middle school would be a mix of the RGEC program and tutoring and intervention for any student who needs it.
According to Hendrix, SCSD is applying for the 21st Century Grant which will cover all of the costs associated with the programs. If the district does not receive the grant, CRRSAA money will be used. RGEC manages every aspect of the grant for any district that is applying for it.
Michael Lujan, RGEC Director of Business and Development, said during the board meeting on Monday night that the afterschool and Friday programs can be tailored to each individual school.
“We want to work with communities to help the schools do their job,” he said. “We don’t want to do better than the schools, we want to enhance what is going on in the schools. I want to say that our programs can be customizable to what the school district needs, specifically that school.”
Part of the program includes helping the students with their homework.
Patricia Baros who is the Director of the Grant Based Program said that during the full day on Fridays, students would follow a planned schedule and are divided into two groups — kindergarten through second grade and third through fifth/sixth grade. Within each group, there is a 15:1 ratio between students and instructors.
On Fridays, students would be engaged in lessons and activities that encompass different areas, including health, fitness, mental wellness, diversity and inclusion.
“It keeps the kids occupied, engaged and having fun throughout the whole day,” Baros said. “It doesn’t feel like they are at school the whole day. Not that school is boring or anything, but they are with us for that whole extra day and they are engaged the whole time.”
Teachers would not be required to work the Friday program done by RGEC as the company normally hires locals to work with the students.
Lujan said that teachers would receive a stipend rate while everyone else is paid hourly and would become contractors for RGEC.
At the high school level, Fridays would be tutoring and intervention for any student who needs it.
“We can’t force them to come, but we are offering something that you don’t always see,” Hendrix said during the board meeting. “It’s an opportunity for them to catch up so they don’t fall behind somewhere else. We can offer that and tell parents that it’s going to be time well spent.”
Hendrix said that by offering tutoring and intervention for middle and high school students on Fridays it would allow them to remain in class during the week instead of being pulled out for help and missing even more material.
The high school Friday program will be done through SCSD and will give teachers an opportunity to provide specialized instruction to those who want it.
“If you have a teacher who is really invested in art and wants to do an art program on Fridays, this is their opportunity to do that,” Hendrix said. “They can make extra money by running that program and have kids who are really interested in the art and they want to come in and take part in that. I think it’s as big as our teachers want to dream or as big as anyone else who wants to offer a program.”
Students at each school who participate in the Friday program will receive transportation to and from school. Students will also receive meals in both the afterschool and Friday programs.
Hendrix said that bus drivers who would no longer be working on Fridays would be able to be contracted by RECG to make up any lost income.
For those students who do not take part at the high school, Hendrix said it allows them to have a job or focus on their athletics. It would also allow families to spend more time together on the weekends.
“The idea that kids are going on Fridays, that someone is not going to have the same experience as kids whose parents are there all the time, we had to make sure we covered them and that’s why we have that Friday program,” Hendrix said. “Even those dead set against it, a lot of them come over when they see how much time they get with their kids.”