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Slimming school year could save money
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In an effort to cut at least $9 million, officials with the Newton County School System have proposed several cuts to the 2011-2012 budget. Below is a look at two proposals, possible change to the length of the school day and changes to high school scheduling, that could potentially save a lot of cash, but have the most impact on parents and teachers.

You can learn more about the proposals and others under consideration at a session scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Alcovy High School auditorium.

Change high school scheduling to a seven-period day to include remediation/enrichment for students

Students at the county’s three high school currently have four class periods per semester (18 school weeks). Under this recommendation, they would go from that to a schedule with year-long courses and a seven-period day. All high schools are currently operating on a block schedule, meaning they have three instructional periods and one planning period.

A switch to a seven-period day would eliminate 47 teaching positions in the high schools – 12 at Eastside, 17 at Newton and 18 at Alcovy. The cuts could save $2,820,000, since the average savings for salaries and benefits is $60,000 per position. Although adding periods to the day sounds like it would require more teachers, Director of Secondary Education Samantha Fuhrey explained that would not be the case.

"In the seven-period day, the number of segments taught by an individual teacher increased by 50 percent," said Fuhrey. "When


transitioning to the seven-period day, a system can expect to utilize 13-14 percent fewer teachers than in a 4-by-4 block."

A seven-period day would also allow for a focus period for students who may be struggling and in danger of not graduating, according to Superintendent Gary Mathews.

"Some students will take seven classes for credit, while others will take six for credit and a focus period to shore up necessary skills for graduation," said Mathews. "Advanced students will have the option of a focus period for further preparation/study or a full schedule of seven classes, each for credit."

According to Fuhrey, graduation requirements are identified by the year a student enters ninth grade and when making a shift to a different schedule, graduation requirements will reflect the appropriate/current schedule, so the change would not have an adverse affect on students who have been on a block schedule.

Change to the school schedule

Another option are three different changes to the school schedules, each saving a different amount, ranging from over $800,000 to over $350,000.

Four-day school week

If implemented, this would save $820,000. The school year would be 156 days, with classes held Tuesday through Friday. The school day would also be lengthened by 47 minutes for elementary school and 56 minutes for secondary schools. The school system's administrative offices would remain on a five-day workweek.

158 school days

This option would save $750,000. The school day would be lengthened by roughly 42 minutes in elementary and 52 minutes for secondary.

169 school days

The last option would save the least but would still net the system a savings of $375,000. The school day would be lengthened by approximately 20 minutes for elementary and 28 minutes for secondary.

According to Mathews, each option would negatively affect custodians, bus drivers and food service workers, but not other groups of employees.