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Santa Fe schools plan early release Thursday for legislative rally

Kai Porter
March 15, 2017 05:17 PM

Children attending Santa Fe Public schools will be released early Thursday as educators use the extra time to voice concerns over education funding cuts.

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Elementary and K-8 schools will release students at noon. Middle and high schools will release at 1 p.m. The reason? So teachers, parents and students can be free to attend a “Save Our Schools” at the roundhouse Thursday afternoon.

Demonstrators at the rally will urge the governor and lawmakers to reach a compromise on school funding.

Superintendent Veronica Garcia said it was a difficult decision but she feels it’s in the best interest of students, staff and families in Santa Fe. Garcia said her district is in danger of losing between 15 to 30 instructional school days or about 60 to 120 positions due to potential budget cuts – along with the loss of athletic programs and school consolidation.

Garcia said she knows some people will be unhappy with her decision.

“I believe that when people can actually see the human beings that are impacted by these decisions – be it parents, children, staff – it makes it more personal," she said. "It’s one thing to cut numbers on a piece of paper. But when you see the real lives that are impacted and the people that may leave the profession, I hope it will be impactful. And trust me; I wouldn’t make this kind of decision lightly. Every school day matters.”

Free after school care will be available for parents who need it.

Garcia said they received more than 5,000 responses to a survey about the issue, and 80 percent were in favor of closing schools in Santa Fe for the entire day. She said the decision to do an early release day instead was a compromise.

The rally is set to start at 3 p.m. Thursday on the east side of the Roundhouse. Participants will then deliver letters to the governor’s office and lawmakers.

The full text of Garcia's letter is as follows:

March 15, 2017

Dear Santa Fe Public School Staff, Parents and Community:

We received more than 5,000 responses to our survey in addition to a multitude of phone calls and emails regarding our proposed action(s) at the Roundhouse.

While the response was 80% in favor of closing school for the entire day on March 16th, I’ve made the very difficult decision of determining that the best course of action is to call for an early release day on March 16th. Please note the following:

  • Elementary  and K-8 Schools will release at noon

  • Middle and High Schools will release at 1:00 p.m.

  • Lunch will be served at all sites

  • The Santa Fe Public Schools instructional day schedule for the year far exceeds the instructional minutes required in statute.  As per NM PED regulations, the early dismissal day counts as a full instructional day.

  • High schools and middle schools will modify their schedules to ensure that all teachers will have an opportunity to meet with all of their students.

  • Free afterschool care for parents, as per usual, will be provided to program participants at all 21st Century School program sites until 5:30 PM. The Community in Schools program located at eight schools will provide after school services until 5:30 PM. More information will be forthcoming on our website.  In addition, free after school care for all students needing assistance, ages 5 through 18, will be provided courtesy of the City of Santa Fe at the Monica Roybal Center located at 737 Aqua Fria Road from 12:30 to 6:30 p.m.

  • Practices for athletics or special activities will be held at the discretion of the coaches and educators leading those programs (e.g. theater, mock trial, sporting competitions, etc.)

  • All District Offices will remain open.  All 11 and 12 month employees must report to work as normal and they must take leave if they choose to participate in the rally.

As the top educational leader of the District, I have the responsibility to ensure the integrity of the educational program and I truly believe that every day matters. It pained me to consider giving up a school day.  The financial situation of the District is dire and will only get worse if there is not a compromise between the Legislature and the Governor. We are in danger of losing between 15 to 30 instructional school days or approximately 60 to 120 positions, loss of athletics, consolidation of schools and more, as possible cost saving measures. Therefore, desperate times call for bold action.

There were many considerations in making this decision. I know that regardless of the decision I made there will be some stakeholders who will be unhappy.  However, I feel that my decision is in the best interest of our students, staff, families, and community-stakeholders I serve. Many of the considerations, I had to take into account, included but not limited to:

  • Balancing lost instructional time with the potential impact of our advocacy

  • Teacher and employee morale

  • Parents who experience tremendous stress providing safe child care for their children and their inability to take off of work

  • Children who depend on school as their primary source of nutrition

  • Teachers who expressed concern about losing a day of instruction

  • Various legal considerations (code of ethics, professional standards, instructional hours, etc.)

  • Cost of cancelling the school day with no instructional time provided (approx. $340,000)

  • Ensuring that our employees feel valued and empowered

With this difficult decision made, I urge you to join us on the east side of the Roundhouse to participate in the rally and express your opinions.  Please arrive as close to 2:30 PM as possible.  The rally will start at 3:00 p.m.   Keep in mind that parking is limited, so please plan for at least an hour to get there. We encourage people to walk and carpool if possible.

Limited transportation will be provided to shuttle staff from any school to and from the Roundhouse from the following locations:

  • SFHS pick up at 2:00, 2:30 and 2:40

  • CHS pick up at 2:00 and 2:30

  • Kearny pick up at 1:15, 2:00 and 2:45

  • Aspen pick up at 1:15, 2:00 and 2:45

  • E.J. Martinez pick up at 1:15, 2:00 and 2:45

Return trips from the Roundhouse will begin at 4:00 p.m. with final departure at 5:00 p.m. from the East Side of the Roundhouse. Any SFPS employee can park and ride our shuttles from any of the sites mentioned above.

Those that arrive after the rally can still participate in the activities following the rally, which includes delivering letters at the Governor’s Office to express your opinions or delivering letters to your legislators.

We encourage staff, parents, community stakeholders and our colleagues from around the state to participate in our Save our Schools Rally. I thank you for your support and encouragement during this difficult process, and I thank our many community partners who have provided their support.

Sincerely,

Veronica C. García, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

Credits

Kai Porter

Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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