Columbia County plans teacher furloughs, eliminates fall break

Columbia County school officials on Tuesday adopted a new calendar that includes two teacher furlough days and no fall break.

Initially, school board members had adopted a calendar for 2009-10 that set aside Oct. 22 and 23 as the fall break, with Oct. 22 a professional learning day for teachers.

Now classes will be held on those days, but pupils will receive the entire Thanksgiving week off. The unpaid teacher furlough days are set for Aug. 3 and Nov. 23 -- days school will not be in session.

By taking off the entire Thanksgiving week, Superintendent Charles Nagle said, the system can save as much as $100,000 on electric bills.

On Tuesday, state Board of Education officials approved waiving a requirement that educators work 190 days each school year. The waiver gives school systems the flexibility needed to enact Gov. Sonny Perdue's plan to save money by asking teachers to take three unpaid days off by the end of the calendar year.

School systems are not required to enact the furloughs, but state funding for the salary equivalent will nevertheless be denied them.

Columbia County officials chose to furlough teachers for just two days.

Eliminating three teacher work days equates to about $1.5 million. Mr. Nagle proposed several methods to make up the additional $500,000 in salaries and about $3 million in state budget cuts, but none was approved Tuesday.

While furloughing teachers, the system also can furlough system-paid employees, which will save about $300,000. Mr. Nagle also suggested that he could divert some stimulus money and other instructional funds to help.

During the past year the system lost about $9 million from cuts.

Still, raising taxes won't be considered, Mr. Nagle said.

"We feel like it's not prudent at this time for our community to shoulder that," he said.

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.

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