Shorter school year eyed to save money


The idea of shortening the school calendar in the Fayette County School System for the 2012-2013 school year as a way to save precious dollars to help balance next year’s budget will have to wait until November for a possible decision by the Board of Education.

The examples of a mock calendar presented Oct. 17 may lead to the choice of one that shortens the school year by only five days, saves the greatest amount of money and provides a more balanced cut in pay for all employees across the school system.

Superintendent Jeff Bearden during the brief discussion Monday night noted that no one on the school system’s calendar committee wanted to decrease the number of school days per year, adding that such a move was one of the approaches being examined to help offset an estimated $10 million budget shortfall in coming school year.

Option 3, the one said by Bearden to be the most fair for employees and the one that generates the greatest savings would result in a somewhat longer school year than the other two options and would total 175 days compared to the current 180-day school year.

Bearden said under Option 3 the school calendar would stay as it currently exists. The difference is that the school system would be shut down for five days to be determined. Consequently, all employees would have their work year reduced by five days.

The cost savings in Option 3 totals $3.33 million. Of that amount, $3.245 million would come by way of salary reductions with another $50,000 in utility savings and $39,000 in fuel savings.

Option 1 would total 168 student days, with the school year beginning Sept. 4 and running through May 24.

The school year for teachers would total 175 days, beginning Aug. 27 and ending May 29.

In terms of money saved, Option 1 would represent a total savings of $2.72 million. Of that amount, $2.42 million would be saved in salaries, $200,000 in utility costs and $93,700 in fuel costs.

In terms of cost savings, the school system’s hourly paid staff, such as bus drivers and food service staff working 180 days, would take the biggest hit due to the 12-day reduction. Parapros, too, would see a 12-day reduction.

Teachers, who are considered 190-day employees, would work longer hours and be paid for 186 days. Most other school system employees would see an equivalent reduction of three work days, except for principals and county administrators, who would lose five days.

Bearden noted several concerns with the Option 1 schedule.

The first semester would not end until after Christmas break, with administrators concerned that teachers would be forced to review for mid-terms, thus losing academic time.

Another concern was that hourly paid employees, who are also generally the lowest paid, would lose the greatest number of days.

A third concern deals with students graduating after the first semester that previously would have ended in December. If the schedule is altered to end in January, those students entering college beginning in January would be adversely impacted.

Option 2 would also carry a 168-day schedule for students, with classes beginning Aug. 20 and ending May 24. The school year for teachers would total 176 days beginning on Aug. 13.

Cost savings for Option 2 would total $3.174 million. That figure includes $2.98 million in salary reductions, $100,000 in utilities and $93,700 in fuel savings.

As with Option 1, 180-day employees under Option 2 would be reduced to 168 days while teachers would work the equivalent of 186 days. Most other employees would see four fewer work days during the year while principals and county administrators would lose five days.

None of the board members during the brief discussion appeared pleased with the idea of cutting the number of days in the school calendar. To that end, board member Janet Smola asked that, if implemented and found unnecessary to offset expected revenue losses, the new calendar be abandoned and the old calendar re-instituted. Bearden said such a move could be accomplished.

The idea of changing the school calendar to enable saving on expenditures is but one of the items on the table for discussion.

Other items to be considered and discussed in November include reductions in the General Fund budget, combining middle and high school bus routes, reduction of staff through attrition and through reductions in force and a look at the portion of employees’ health and dental insurance paid by the school system.