After Gov. Sonny Perdue ordered another cut in the already-tight state education budget last week, Liberty County School System officials had to order all employees to take three furlough days during the upcoming fall semester.
“As of [Tuesday], the board officially voted and we’re going to take three furlough days. [One] on Sept. 8, the day after Labor Day, making it a four-day weekend,” said Superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer. “And then the other two on Oct. 5 and 6. That’s a Monday and Tuesday, making another four-day weekend.”
Scherer said the board chose the October dates to coincide with the current deployment schedule, offering families more time together before soldiers head overseas.
Every employee, including custodians, bus drivers and administrators, will be is affected by the decision.
To ensure students still have plenty of learning time, Scherer said the board decided to lengthen each school day by 15 minutes during the first semester.
“In other words, the children will be 15 minutes later getting out,” she said.
Scherer said the decision was not optional.
“We simply couldn’t afford not to,” she said. “It’s called money.”
Scherer said other systems in Georgia had the option of using planning days as furloughs, but that isn’t a feasible for LCSS.
“We, unlike many other systems, didn’t have additional teacher work day in our calendar,” Scherer said.
Administrators in the area seem to understand that the furloughs a result of actions taken at the state level rather than the local level. Many of them have decided to make the best of the situation.
“Here, we’re going to start a school-wide reading time,” said Dr. James Johnson, principal of Jordye Bacon elementary school. “We’re going to take those extra 15 minutes to make sure everybody has more reading time.”
Johnson said in his 32 years of working as an educator he’s never been asked to take a furlough before, but thinks the plan seems appropriate.
“I personally think the board did a good job handling the situation,” he said.
While Johnson said he is concerned about the state’s overall financial standings, he said the furloughs are nothing his staff can’t handle.
“Our teachers are very dedicated.”