COVINGTON — Newton County School System students will attend school for a full school year next year and staff members will have fewer furlough days, after previously having shortened terms over the past several years.
The Newton County Board of Education approved a 180-day student calendar and a 186-day teacher calendar during its monthly meeting on Tuesday. Then-school board Chair Eddie Johnson voted against the calendar, saying he preferred a six-furlough-day calendar in preparation of a possible budget shortfall in the next few years.
A full school year is considered 180 student days and 190 teacher days.
The calendar was developed by a committee that was made up of a representative from each school, along with school- and district-level administrators.
The presented calendar includes four furlough days. This school year, the board gave staffers six furlough days. In 2011-12, they had four furlough days, after two school days were added back to the calendar.
“We’ve got to do something. We’ve got teachers working for five years and not being given a step increase,” board member Abigail Coggin said. “We have it in the funds. I think this is the least we can do.”
Board member Jeff Meadors said employees also are facing a 2 percent payroll tax increase, too, this calendar year.
“We can’t keep putting them further and further behind,” board member Almond Turner said.
However, Johnson repeatedly insisted that the board hold off on adding back in work days for now, even though the budget is predicted to have a surplus next school year.
“It’s best to hold on (to the money) as long as you can because I don’t see any bright days ahead for us,” he said. “And if you have it at the end, then we give them back.”
NCSS Superintendent Gary Mathews reported that the estimate from the Newton County Tax Assessors office shows that the digest for next year will be down between 5 and 6 percent, so the 2014-15 school year could be in the red if cuts aren’t made. However, he said things could change, since after all, NCSS received an unanticipated $3 million in revenue last year because tax revenue was better than expected.
“I’m not sure any of us has that crystal ball,” Mathews added.
Each furlough day saves about $440,000, school officials said.
As is the case this school year, furlough deductions are spread equally over the 12 paychecks, NCSS business manager Peggy Bullard said. Additionally, all staffers experience the same amount of furlough days.
The proposed calendar has students beginning school on Friday, Aug. 2, and ending school on Friday, May 23. New teachers would begin on Thursday, July 25, and returning teachers would begin on Monday, July 29, and continue until Wednesday, May 28.
Students and staff members would have a weeklong fall break the week of Oct. 7, a weeklong Thanksgiving break the week of Nov. 25 and a two-week-long holiday break from Monday, Dec. 23, through Friday, Jan. 3; students also would get a break on Monday, Jan. 5, for a staff professional learning day.
A short winter break is scheduled Feb. 19 through 21, and a week-long spring break is scheduled for April 7 through 11.
Early release days for teacher-parent conferences and staff professional learning days are scheduled for six Fridays during the school year — Sept. 13, Oct. 18, Nov. 15, Jan. 31, Feb. 28 and March 28.