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Four-day week or 20 fewer days in 2010-2011? It’s a possibility.

The county’s board of education approved the administration’s recommendation of cutting 30 minutes off the students’ school day to create mandatory budget-cutting scenarios, but that unanimous vote did not stop board members from discussions about a possible four-day week or a shorter school year for 2010-2011.
Board member Tom Avret’s question about the feasibility of having students in school four days a week instead of five opened the door for the consideration of other ideas for future school years.
Peach County has opted for a four-day school week this 2009-2010 school year as students are in school additional minutes Tuesday through Friday and are out Mondays each week. On Mondays with the schools closed, teachers teleconference with other school officials.
Murray County officials, however, went with a schedule that cuts 20 days off the school calendar. Essentially, the county added an hour on to the school days to meet the state law on the number of hours schools must be in operation.
State legislators changed the law last year that a school year is based on hours and not the previous 180 days.
With Murray County’s plan, their school system begins the day after Labor Day and will conclude the day before Screven County is scheduled to finish May 28, 2010.
Board member Julie Cannon said she liked the notion of a shorter school year and Superintendent Whit Myers said he would be more receptive to the Murray County version of the two varying school calendars.
Assistant superintendent William Bland, who oversees maintenance and operations, said his concern about a shorter school year would be that the pay for food service and bus drivers would be cut by one-fifth because of the reduction of school days.
Cannon suggested increasing the pay scale for food service employees and bus drivers with federal dollars. Bland acknowledged that could be a possibility.
“I think it would be very interesting to see what happens,” Myers said of other school systems’ plans to save money and meet the latest imposed 3 percent cuts.
“Let’s watch these other school systems,” said school board chairman Lindy Sheppard.
“Take one step at a time sweet Jesus,” Avret said.
Under the Murray County School District plan, the number of days students are in school will be reduced from 180 to 160, but the number of hours of instruction will not change since the school day will be extended by one additional hour. The county’s officials reportedly said the change was made because revenues from the state were cut by approximately $7 million. The shortening of the school year was accompanied by multiple budget reductions to handle the county’s shortfall.
Murray County schools, according to the Web site, will save approximately $70,000 in diesel fuel because of the 20 fewer days. Utility costs will be cut since August has been Murray County’s most expensive month for utilities.
Peach County’s school system Web site says the decision to go to a four-day week was made to address the approximately $720,000 in additional cuts to state funds. Peach County began its school year Aug. 4.
School hours in Peach County are 8 a.m. until 3 p.m. for elementary students and 8:30 a.m. until 3:45 p.m. for middle and high school students from Tuesday through 
Friday of each week. 
Teachers and administrators will work a five-day week, but on Mondays all buildings will be closed. The district will utilize technology to allow teachers and
administrative staff to work together on-line and to access their school computers. Shutting down the school district for a day a week will save approximately $407,848 in operations and transportations costs.
Attending the Screven County board meeting Monday when the members voted for the 30-minute reduction of the school day for students was Chris Thompson, an employee of Georgia Southern University, who told the board members she appreciated the board discussing other school calendar possibilities. Thompson said she “really liked” the Murray County plan of a shortened school year, which, she said, should save on energy costs.
The mother of three children enrolled in the elementary school also suggested some ways for the board to reduce expenses.
At the system-wide open house July 31, Thompson was given a student handbook for each of her three children. She returned two of them.
Thompson said a closer look at paper usage could save the school system money. She said she filled out six to 10 pages of information for each of her children at open house.
“If there is any way you might have our children’s records out so parents could check them, it would save on paper and time,” Thompson said.
School officials said the new Infinite Campus system-wide computer program that has been launched for this school year should help with grouping information about families with multiple children enrolled in the school district.
Myers told board members Monday administrators “still are working to get some bugs” out of the system which is projected to be a distinct upgrade from the previous program that did not efficiently link various bits of student information.
The superintendent said teachers currently are being trained on how to enter student grades into the system. Myers said it may be two to three weeks before parents before will be able to access information from teachers’ individual classrooms as was done with the previous program of ParentConnect, which Infinite Campus replaced.
“I think the Web is the way to go,” said Thompson, who added that copies of paperwork and materials could be available for parents and guardians who do not have access to a computer. “You can have a sign up and then people can go on-line.”

Thompson also said more regulation of the temperature inside the elementary school during the cooler months could save more funds in the budget. She suggested students do what she remembers doing during her school days of bringing a sweater that can be put on the back of the desk’s chair and worn by the student when necessary.