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Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series on the proposed bell schedule changes for Los Alamos Public Schools.
Eyeing the prospect of a $600,000 reduction in state funding, the Los Alamos Board of Education is contemplating whether to change the current bell schedule for both primary and secondary grades in an effort to save money.
The change in schedules could allow the district to gain some efficiency in bus routes with the potential to save up to $80,000 during the school year, although the final dollar figure in savings has yet to be confirmed by district officials.
No conclusion has been reached on changes to the bell schedule; however, three proposals have been presented to the board for consideration.
One schedule proposes that elementary students start school first; the second proposes that secondary grades start first; and the third proposes that the schedule stay the same.
The advantages and disadvantages of the first two options were discussed during a board of education work session at Mountain Elementary last Thursday.
If accepted, the first proposal would require elementary students to be at the bus stop before sunrise in the winter with classes starting at 7:40 a.m., which did not sit well with some parents and administrators.
“Given the blowback from elementary parents it made me stop and consider whether that’s the right path,” School Board Vice President Kevin Honnell said.
Aspen Elementary Principal Kathryn Vandenkieboom said she was in favor of an earlier start for elementary students. She told the school board that she had read about studies that concluded a later start for teenagers is more beneficial because they function better during the school day, whereas elementary students performed better with an earlier start.
“I’m a little worried about a dark bus stop, but the parents need to be in charge of them (their children),” Vandenkieboom said. “I desperately need people to understand that schools are not a babysitting service in any way, shape or form.”
School board member Thelma Hahn said she doesn’t see an issue with young children walking to the bus stop early in the morning.
“I can’t see a problem with kids going to school in the dark if there’s street lights and parent supervision,” she said.
However, Hahn did acknowledge that some neighborhoods like Pajarito Acres in White Rock do not have streetlights, which would be a concern, should the schedule change.
LAPS staff member Ellen Mills said area daycare centers currently begin accepting children at 7:30 a.m. and questioned whether having elementary children start school so early was really a good choice.
“Is this the thing we want to do?” Mills asked.
Despite the advantages and disadvantages of the proposed schedules, LAPS Superintendent Gene Schmidt wants to make clear that something needs to be done in order to cut costs.
“The community needs to understand that the schools need to figure out how to replace or plan for an anticipated $600,000 in reduction in funding from the state legislature,” he said. “This is on top of the million they reduced last year.”
He said every system and program needs to be examined.
“The bus schedule is one of the many different programs we’re looking at to help recoup, recover some of the $600,000 we’re expecting to lose from the state legislature.”
Schmidt said there’s been a lot of commentary, without a lot of information being disseminated. He said information has been scarce because administrators are still trying to study the facts.
Schmidt said that a final decision should be made sometime in April and encourages comments from the public in the meantime. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or may be made via telephone at 663-2230.
“I would love to get emails or calls,” Schmidt said. “I invite the community to attend either the work sessions or regular (school board) meetings.”
Comment on the bell schedule by sending email to email@example.com or by calling 663-2230.