Elementary students will get early release once a week

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Some Clovis students will be let out early on Wednesdays next year to allow more time for the professional development of teachers.

Students in elementary schools across the district will be released between 12:45 p.m. and 1 p.m. on Wednesdays, school officials said. The change was approved by the Clovis school board during an April 26 meeting.

“The effect of the No Child Left Behind Act,” said G.C. Ross, interim superintendent of Clovis Municipal Schools, “is an increased need for professional development.”

Ross said under the current system, training takes the teachers out of the classroom.

“It’s pulled teachers away from time with students and I’ve had parents complain that teachers are out of the classroom too much for instructional leave,” Ross said. “We’ve had to come up with some pretty creative ideas to accommodate the No Child Left Behind Act.”

Ross said the early release program has been successful in Roswell, a district comparable to Clovis in size. For Ross, the program just makes sense.

“This is typically the way school districts have done it,” Ross said. “It breaks up the week. It will also be a good time for parents to schedule medical appointments for their children. We announced it now to give parents a chance to make plans for their children after school.”

But not everyone agrees the change will be beneficial.

For parents such as Tony Eisenbraun, father of a Zia Elementary student and manager of a local music store, the early Wednesday release comes as an unwelcome surprise. The schedule change, he said, should have been more publicly debated and discussed. Instead, he said, news about the change filtered to him through the rumor mill.

“The perspective of many parents,” Eisenbraun said, “is that it’s smack in the middle of the week. I would much rather have it in the beginning of the week. Or maybe the day could have started at noon … But the fact is, our children don’t need less time in the classroom, they need more.”

Eisenbraun is having trouble finding a day care center to accommodate his need for child care in the afternoon. He said he may end up taking his children to work with him on Wednesdays.

Ross, however, said many elementary school will offer programs to help ease the transition. Some may implement latch-key programs, others will rely on buses to shuttle students home.

Ranchvale Elementary School Principal Suzanne Brockmeier also embraces the change.

“I think teachers desperately need more time (for professional development). Teachers have a terrible amount of paperwork which they do on their own family time — this will give us time for staff development and planning,” Brockmeier said.

But Eisenbraun’s concerns don’t end with day care and work woes. Mostly, he is angered by what he sees as a decision that disregards the wishes of those it will most greatly impact — parents.

“It has a broad impact on virtually everyone — one-half of our school system,” Eisenbraun said. “But we we’re given no voice. It’s like they said, ‘this is a new rule, just like it.’”