Counties cut school days, don't add time

 

ATLANTA --- No one stepped forward Wednesday to speak against a proposed rule by the State Board of Education that gives local districts the flexibility to shorten the school year.

The public hearing was to bring the state's rules in line with legislation passed earlier this year that allows districts to use whatever combination of days equals the same actual class time as the traditional 180-day school year.

More than a dozen systems have already used waivers of the previous rule to shrink their calendars trying to squeeze money on utilities, lunch and transportation.

Before the start of this school year, the Columbia County school board shortened its calendar by two days, which is about 14 hours of instruction time. Richmond County cut three days off its 2010-11 school calendar.

School officials in both districts refrained from lengthening the school day to make up that time.

"When you have to furlough someone from work, and then to extend their workday? You're taking money from them, but then you're requiring them to work anyway?" said Columbia County Deputy Superintendent Sandra Carraway. "That did not sit well with our school board and our superintendent."

Superintendent Charles Nagle said the system will save about $1.3 million by cutting the two days.

In Richmond County, each furlough day saves about $1 million. The district imposed eight furlough days on teachers to help overcome a revenue shortfall for the fiscal year.

Some Richmond County school board members have endorsed the idea of adding time to the school day in exchange for having fewer instructional days in the academic calendar, but no action has been taken.

Staff Writers Donnie Fetter and Jason Wermers contributed to this article.

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