Newton school board considering calendar option

COVINGTON The Newton County Board of Education is considering a shortened school calendar, but some of the members are hoping they don't have to settle for it.

During the school board's monthly work session last week, Newton County School System Superintendent Gary Mathews presented the board with two calendar options for the 2012-13 school year and asked for approval of the calendar with 178 student days and 184 teacher days. The other option was 180 student days and 186 teacher days.

A full school year is considered 180 student days and 190 teacher days, so both options included at least four furlough days for teachers. This year, staff members are experiencing four furlough days.

The calendars would have students attend school from early August through Friday, May 24.

Both options give students a fall break from Sept. 24 through 28, a full-week Thanksgiving break from Nov. 19 through 23, a winter break from Feb. 18 through 22 and a spring break from April 1 through 5. Several early release and one-day holidays also are included in the calendars.

Option one with 178 student days would have students begin school on Friday, Aug. 3, and give them a semester break from Dec. 21 through Jan. 3, while the second option with 180 days would have them begin school Thursday, Aug. 2, and give them the break from Dec. 24 through Jan. 3.

Having six furlough days for teachers in the calendar would be an increase of two furlough days this school year and, therefore, would increase the budget by $880,000. Mathews told school board members this would help offset expected state health benefit plan increases in employer health insurance premiums that could cost NCSS more than $1 million next school and another $1 million the following school year.

The options were developed using a calendar committee led by Dr. Shelia Thomas, director of Federal Programs at NCSS, and made up of a representative from each school, along with school- and district-level administrators. They were told to create two calendars: one with 178 student days and 184 teacher days and another one with 180 student days and 186 teacher days.

Several school board members expressed disinterest in approving more furlough days for next school year, and all of them decided it was too early to decide on a calendar without knowing more information about the budget and what the state would do with its budget.

The board decided to table a decision on the calendar until at least February. It is scheduled to meet for a work session on Feb. 14 and a meeting on Feb. 28. Both begin at 7 p.m. in the board room at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive in Covington.