Schools plan more furlough days

SUWANEE -- Gwinnett County Public Schools employees won't have to take any more furlough days this academic year, but three unpaid days off have been included in next year's school calendar.

The school system released its 2010-11 calendar Thursday during the school board meeting.

The school year will begin on Aug. 9 and end May 25. The Thanksgiving break has been extended from three days to a week, and spring break is the first full week in April.

The furlough days for teachers will be Aug. 2 and 3 and Oct. 11, while 12-month employees will take unpaid days off on Nov. 24 and Dec. 20 and 21.

While the district typically sets its calendar two years in advance, the current budget challenges resulted in the delay of the announcement of the upcoming instructional calendar, Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said.

School board member Robert McClure said the delay didn't happen "because we fell asleep at the wheel, but because the wheel is a little more uncertain" than it has been in the past.

"The calendar is a good example of the uncertainty that we've had to weigh that we've never had to weigh before," he said.

Because of the continuing budget woes, the school system felt it would be prudent to implement furlough days in the upcoming academic year, spokeswoman Sloan Roach said.

"Back in the fall when GCPS implemented three furlough days, the district also put in place a number of other cost-saving measures as we felt there would be additional furlough days announced in the second semester," Roach said. "Those measures included holding one position per school in reserves, leaving some vacant positions unfilled and reducing district operational expenditures.

"These moves allowed us not to furlough teachers and other staff an additional three days during the second semester as proposed in the governor's fiscal year 2010 amended budget."

Cuts to school funding means more than 435 staff members will be displaced from their current positions, but the school system plans to place displaced employees in new positions by March 3, said Frances Davis, the school system's chief academic officer.

The school system is increasing class sizes next year by one student in kindergarten, regular education classrooms, vocational education classrooms, gifted classes and the Early Intervention Program, Davis said.

The school system plans to reduce the number of Stellar Subs -- full-time substitutes that report to a school daily -- by 117, but Davis said the school system does not intend to lay off these employees. The cuts will be made through attrition, and some Stellar Subs who are certified teachers will be placed in classrooms.