Despite furloughs, some teachers prepare for school

LILBURN - Signs posted on the front doors of Rebecca Minor Elementary School stated the building was closed until Wednesday because of furlough days, but inside, some were readying for Aug. 10.

Excited about the upcoming school year, first-year teacher Lisa Kocks went to the school Monday to prepare her room, setting up her classroom library, arranging a bulletin board and putting up a word wall.

Kocks said she plans to spend time Wednesday working in the classroom, but with meetings planned that day and an open house on Thursday morning, she didn't want to wait to work in her room.

"You want to come off as being as prepared as you can, so kids know you're ready, parents know you're ready," the fourth-grade teacher said.

Gwinnett County Public Schools' pre-planning week was originally scheduled to start Monday, but the implementation of two furlough days gave teachers and most other school-based employees unpaid days off Monday and today. Another furlough day is planned for Oct. 9.

The school system announced the plan after Gov. Sonny Perdue called for three furlough days for all state employees, including teachers, and an additional 3 percent cut in the funding formula for school districts as part of his plan to address state budget shortfalls.

The school district postponed all systemwide professional development to allow teachers to have as much time as possible at their local schools during pre-planning Wednesday through Friday. Teachers were not asked to be at the schools Monday or today, but some - including Kocks - chose to go in on their own time to get ready for the upcoming school year.

Tim Callahan, spokesman for the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, said the organization suspected some teachers would visit schools on furlough days.

"Teachers are very dedicated individuals, and they want to have their classrooms ready," he said.

Kocks said the furlough days aren't impacting her preparations for the beginning of the school year.

"I've waited 20 years to finally have my own classroom and want to do the best job possible for my students," she wrote in an e-mail to the Gwinnett Daily Post. "I've watched and read the news around the nation, teachers are being laid off in greater and greater numbers, and though the governor is asking us to make a sacrifice, I feel that it is a small price to pay to help alleviate the loss in revenue."

LAWRENCEVILLE - Gwinnett County Public Schools' buses will participate in limited practice runs Friday.

Because of the implementation of furlough days, the school bus practice runs will not take place today through Friday as originally planned, district officials said. Some residents will see school buses in their neighborhoods on Friday, but the practice runs will not take place systemwide.

All school system employees will take three unpaid days off before the end of the calendar year. Two of the furlough days for school bus drivers and monitors are today and Wednesday. Most will take Thursday as their third day, but drivers working at schools for registration and back-to-school activities will take Friday instead.

The school district operates 1,819 buses, and the vehicles transport more than 120,880 students. The buses run 7,435 routes and make 45,366 stops twice per day.