July 1, 2008

School Starts Early for Some 3,500 Students Will Get Extra Classroom Time in K-3 Plus Program

By Andrea Schoellkopf Journal Staff Writer

The children getting off buses and running through the playgrounds of Edward Gonzales Elementary today aren't a mirage.

Six weeks before the official first day of school, classes are resuming early for more than 3,500 students in 25 Albuquerque schools. Select classes will get an extra 25 days of school this year through the state's K-3 Plus, which adds classroom time to the 180-day academic calendar.

Sixteen of those schools, including Edward Gonzales, will begin today and the rest Wednesday.

"Everyone is really pleased with the kind of growth students have made since they had the additional time," said APS Assistant Superintendent Diego Gallegos, who oversees the program.

The Albuquerque schools participating are Adobe Acres, Alamosa, Armijo, Atrisco, Barcelona, Dolores Gonzales, Duranes, East San Jose, Edward Gonzales, Emerson, Eubank, Eugene Field, Hawthorne, Kirtland, Kit Carson, La Luz, La Mesa, Lavaland, Los Padillas, Lowell, Mountain View, Reginald Chavez, Valle Vista, Wherry and Whittier.

Edward Gonzales participated last year and found that students, especially the younger ones, seemed to outperform their peers who only attended school under the traditional calendar year, Principal Michael Carrillo said.

Some 300 of the 1,400 Gonzales students are starting early this year, including two fourth- and fifth-grade classes that Carrillo budgeted for out of the school's operational fund.

"The (kindergartners) in K-3 had stronger foundations," Carrillo said Monday. "They did better in their kindergarten progress report. We were real pleased with it."

He said he still has openings for this year's program, especially in kindergarten.

The program began in 2003 as an extended year for kindergarten and expanded last year to include third grade. It is open to schools where 85 percent of the enrollment is eligible for free or reducedprice lunches, Gallegos said. Of the eligible elementaries in APS, only Mary Ann Binford and Navajo did not participate. Binford is on a multitrack year-round schedule that would have made it difficult to schedule the classes, and Navajo is undergoing a major reconstruction project at the campus.

Gallegos said the program has been discussed as a possible intervention for failing schools in high-poverty neighborhoods.

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