An ongoing hiring freeze in the Richmond County School System could delay the opening of the technical high school intended for August, Acting Superintendent James Whitson said Wednesday.
Only a principal has been hired at Richmond County Technical Career Magnet School, and the hiring freeze enacted earlier this year would prevent any outside hires.
School administrators could transfer teachers from within the district, but the technical school needs instructors with specific certifications to teach career tracks such as culinary arts and collision repair, which would require hiring from the outside, according to Chief Human Resources Officer Norman Hill.
There are nine teaching positions slated for the school because it will have only ninth-graders its first year. It will add one grade every year.
“Obviously the closer it gets to the start of the school year, the greater effect it has on us,” Hill said.
Whitson said the Richmond County Board of Education would have to approve any delay. The board will receive the budget in June and would also make decisions about how long to extend a hiring freeze.
“The cuts have just been so deep and for so long that we’re running out of any kind of options,” he said.
Construction on the $22 million technical magnet school is scheduled to be completed in June. It will offer six career tracks including engineering and firefighting, and will partner in instruction with Augusta Technical College, where the campus is located.
Board member Jack Padgett said about 800 students had applied by March for the 160 available slots.
Whitson said the hiring freeze is a result of ongoing cuts in state funding. The school system is estimating a $23 million reduction in state funds for the 2012-13 school year, which is about the same as the year before.
The district has been dealing with funding shortfalls by cutting teaching positions through attrition and not filling vacancies for three years, Whitson said.
School officials preparing the budget have already stopped the purchase of textbooks for next year to save $442,000 and have opted to not fill some key vacancies.
“Everything is on the floor for discussion,” Whitson said.