Alamo reservation school begins extended school year

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School began early this year for students of the Alamo community on Monday, July 23.

The K-12 school switched from a traditional nine-month schedule to an extended school year structure. Students will attend for nine weeks, then have a three-week break. The Alamo School Board believes the new schedule will help students retain more information instead of regressing over the course of a three-month summer vacation.

Sky Chadde/El Defensor Chieftain Intern: Staff members of the Alamo Community School hold up signs welcoming students back around 7 in the morning in front of the school on July 23. The school began an extended year schedule the same day.

The board looked at data that showed this trend and decided that a change was necessary, said Dr. Tamarah Pfieffer, superintendent at the Alamo Community School. Last year, the school did a practice run-through of the new structure and saw the student success the extended year provided.

“We raised our achievement scores (on a yearly test),” Pfieffer said, stating the math and reading scores of her students on that test increased by 20 percent during the practice run.

The school also tried something new during that three-week break period, or intersession. For two of those weeks, the school offered credit for those students who participated in the intersession program, which, for one grade level, centered around aviation and ended with students being able to actually fly in a plane.

“One hundred percent of our students participated in intersession,” Pfeiffer said, even though participation is not required.

That level of participation was not anticipated because many in the community were opposed to the schedule change, Pfeiffer said. Some community members schedule family trips, such as hunting, around the traditional school breaks, she said, but they eventually came around to the idea.

Pfeiffer said the level of interest in the practice intersession course shows the community has gotten behind the idea. The conversations about the change began last year. It was an agenda item at almost every board meeting since, she said.

The discussion around the change was “very heated,” she said. The community held many forums and radio phone-ins, trying to come to a consensus on the switch.

Pfieffer added the Alamo Community School is almost filled to capacity. The class times remain the same, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 3:30 p.m.

The school receives funds from a grant provided by the Navajo Nation.