Judge temporarily blocks 180-day school calendar rule

Judge temporarily blocks 180-day school calendar rule

Rural school districts have been fighting a new statewide rule to require 180 days in the classroom each school year.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Rural school districts have been fighting a new statewide rule to require 180 days in the classroom each school year. Many of those districts have operated on a four-day week for years. 

Recently, a judge blocked that rule from going into effect, for now. But the battle will continue, since the state’s Public Education Department and Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham are the strongest supporters of the 180-day rule. 

This latest ruling has given those district leaders some hope. 

“We felt like we feel like we have a well-defined case, and we believe that we are in the interest in most of the school districts in New Mexico,” said Stan Rounds, executive director of New Mexico Schools Superintendent Association. 

It’s a victory for more than 60% of New Mexico school districts. Back in April, they sued our state’s Public Education Department, claiming the law is clear. The PED is only allowed to require a certain amount of instructional hours, not classroom days. 

This weekend, a judge agreed, issuing a restraining order preventing PED from enforcing a 180 school day rule.

“I was really excited because the temporary restraining order helps all of my four-day school weeks, and all the four-day school weeks across the state be able to put in their budget for a four-day school week, which is what they wanted to do all the time,” said state Rep. Gail Armstrong

Armstrong has opposed the 180-day rule from the beginning. She and other lawmakers supported requiring districts to fulfill a certain number of instructional hours, which would allow four-day school weeks to stay in place. For example, Cimarron schools have done for decades successfully.

The district was in the top 20 statewide for test scores last year. 

“Cimarron School District has been a four-day week approved every year by the state of New Mexico since 1974,” said Rounds. 

Rounds has visited every school district in the state. He says each district has its unique challenges, and they should be able to decide what is the best approach for their students, teachers, and families. 

“We believe the local control is important. Local boards of education are elected for a reason. They are brought on to do the work of the community,” said Rounds.

The next hearing in this case will be next Monday in Portales. The state will get to argue why the 180-day rule should be in place. 

In the meantime, the four-day school week will be allowed for this next school year.

Armstrong also added PED Secretary Arsenio Romero has accepted her invitation to ride on a school bus in Catron County later this month to see the issues children in that district face. Including extremely long rides, which is just one reason they have a four-day week.