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School calendar revised to make room for more furlough days
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Anticipating more furlough days in the near future, the Newton County Board of Education has voted to revise the 2010 school calendar to allow for those days to be taken if required by the state.

The first change that will affect students and parents will be Nov. 20, which was originally scheduled to be an early dismissal day for students. It will now be a full day of instruction.

According to NCSS Superintendent Dr. Steve Whatley, state revenues continue to fall below initial projections for this year, causing the board concern.

"We all know there is an economic crisis of the state and we do not know if there will be further furlough days required," he said. "We have already furloughed teachers three days and administrators four days… We’re running out of time in having access to certain days. We felt it was necessary to adjust the calendar and then we would be taking them if needed in furloughs. What we’re doing," he continued, "is trying to backload the calendar so that we can take furloughed days if necessary. We do not know if the state is going to say that both student and staff days are furloughed."

Already this year there have been three days designated as furlough days and even though officials have had meetings with legislators, they have not been informed if more cuts will be necessary or when they may happen.

A recommendation from Whatley to the school board says "some individuals have speculated that the decision will not be made until the supplemental budget is approved, which could be as late as March."

Council member Johnny Smith expressed concern with taking action on the revision of the school calendar Tuesday evening (Nov. 10).

"I know it’s coming, but why make it easy on them," he said.

Council member Cathy Dobbs said that Senator Jack Hill who is senator of appropriations for the senate said in a speech that the state is going to have to come up with $500 million more dollars and that every time education has a furlough day in the state it gains $45 million.

"It doesn’t take a really smart person to understand they are going to be reaching in that cookie jar to make up the difference," said Dobbs. "We’re being proactive in planning this calendar so that we know it’s inevitable, it’s going to come, and we don’t know if it’s going to be three days or seven days. We work with a moving target. I think it’s smart of us to go ahead and do it."

Along with the Nov. 20 change, the student day that was taken for flooding on Sept. 23 will be forgiven but will count as a new furlough day for certified staff if additional furlough days are needed.

A Jan. 4 teacher work day will be moved to June 2 as a work day, meaning the staff and students will need to report to school on Jan. 5. If even more furlough days are required then the board will use June 2, but if not needed for furlough, that day will be used as a teacher work day. If yet another furlough day is needed then the March 18 half day will be paired with the April 2 half day to be used as one full furlough day. And, if a fourth day is needed, then the March 19 teacher work day will be used for furlough.

"By revising the calendar, the possible days for further furloughing are placed as late in second semester as possible," said Whatley’s recommendation. "This will allow for both time and local action based on decisions made by the governor and legislature."