ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Thousands of Albuquerque kids are back ringing in the new school year Thursday, but it is a lot different for many with some big changes from Albuquerque Public Schools (APS). From later start times to longer days across the district, administrators tell us the changes are being felt Thursday, but they’re optimistic.

“The first day of school is sweet. It’s just exciting. It’s full of promise,” said Scott Elder, superintendent of APS. “I’m just feeling the really good energy and I’m feeling focused and I think I want all of our students to feel the support,” said Laura Chiang, principal of Kennedy Middle School.

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Students from first through 12th grade filed into classrooms again for the first time in months; but for many this year, that first bell rang at a different time. “We made some adjustments to our schedule this year. So, the high school started later, and unfortunately, we don’t have enough bus drivers and we’re unable to run everybody at the same time,” Elder said, “So we had to move some schools around. So, we had three tiers before, somebody went early, somebody was in the middle, and someone went late.”

New mandates in state law have students spending more time in the classroom. APS had elementary students start earlier and stay nearly an hour longer in class per day. High schoolers and middle schoolers start later and end later in the day—with high schools hearing the last bell ring at 3:40 pm, and middle schoolers at 4:15 pm.

Administrators News 13 spoke with are embracing the changes, but acknowledged concerns: “We talked a lot about feeling the transition and maybe a little bit of pressure but we’re going to marry that here with a lot of support and I’m hoping that all the principals and all the district is going to be doing that as well,” Chiang said.

Parents waiting to pick their kiddos up from elementary school were also optimistic. “I like that they get an extra hour. During COVID, it was a hard time for a lot of our students. They missed out on a lot. So technically we’re making up for the time that they lost,” said Britney Gallegos, a parent with APS.

“I know it’s going to be hard, but I think it’s probably for the best just because of seeing so many kids struggling,” said Kristin Frechette, another parent with APS, “We just miss the later school time! It’s a little bit harder to get up earlier.”

“I think transitions are hard whether they’re for good and we know the good why behind them. But I am really confident that I am able to support my and give them what they need,” Chiang said.

Those aren’t the only changes coming down the pike this year: Superintendent Elder said this year is his last year as head of APS after more than 30 years in the district. According to APS, there are still 37 elementary school teaching positions, 15 middle school teaching positions, and 10 high school teaching positions unfilled as of the start of the school year.