CONYERS -- School board members and the general public are being asked to review two possible calendar options for next school year.
Although the Rockdale County Board of Education approved a calendar for the 2011-12 school year in November, officials at Rockdale County Public Schools now are asking the board to look into changing it to cut expenses for next school year.
A budget committee made up of several school principals at various levels, cabinet members and an employee in the finance department recently identified a need to devise a modified calendar to address the budget shortfall.
As a result, a calendar committee made up of school personnel and parents met to develop two modified calendar options -- one has six fewer calendar days spread throughout the school year, leaving 178 student days and 184 staff days, and the other option has six fewer calendar days at the end of the school year, leaving 176 student days and 184 staff days.
Originally, the calendar committee came up with 10 days to cut from the calendar, but RCPS officials narrowed it down to six days to limit impact on student instruction, said Richard Autry, chief academic officer in the Office of Teaching & Learning at RCPS.
Georgia students are required to attend school for 180 days and teachers for 190 days, unless approved by the Georgia Department of Education, which has allowed for such revisions over the past couple of school years in systems across Georgia due to budget reductions. Systems are required to submit their calendars to the GaDOE by May 31.
Autry said he didn't want to wait long to make a decision about the calendar because a lot of families make plans in advance.
The two options are available for public feedback on the RCPS website, www.rockdale.k12.ga.us, through Wednesday.
"We want as much input and feedback as possible," said RCPS Superintendent Samuel King. "We're going to take a look at that and a lot of the variables."
Option one includes reduced days on Sept. 29 and 30 and March 15 and 16 for students and teachers, which were originally half-day professional learning and teacher conference days, as well as May 29 and 30 for teachers. The last day of the school year for students would be Thursday, May 24, and May 25 for teachers.
Option two includes reduced days from May 22 through 25 for students and teachers, as well as May 29 and 30 for teachers. The last day of the school year would be Friday, May 18, for students and May 21 for teachers. Both options would have graduation days on May 25 and 26.
All RCPS staff would lose six days throughout the school year, school officials said.
School board member Brad Smith asked if it would be easier to apply the days to the beginning of the school year instead of the end, like in Option 2, and Autry said the decision was made to take them from the end as not to take away from days before high-stakes testing like the Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests and the Georgia High School Graduation Tests.
Fellow board member Wales Barksdale added that he was concerned with Option 2 because students and teachers would be asked to attend graduation after several days of being out of school.
"There are issues with both of them -- you could see positives and negatives with both," Autry said. "The board is the ultimate decision-maker."
In both options, students would begin school on Thursday, July 28, and teachers would begin Friday, July 22, as previously approved by the school board. Fall break is scheduled for Oct. 3 through 7, Thanksgiving break for Nov. 21 through 25, a semester break from Dec. 19 through Jan. 3, a winter break from Feb. 20 through 24 and a spring break for April 2 through 6.
Either option would have the financial impact for employees spread out over the entire year instead of the affected months.
"We think it's a little easier and more palatable for our employees," said RCPS Chief Financial Officer Lee Davis.
King said the six-day reduction for the 2011-12 staff work calendar will allow for a $3.3 million reduction in general fund expenditures. The system also could save nearly $47,000 per day in transportation salary, benefits and mileage.
After review of the online feedback, the superintendent will present a modified calendar option to the school board for formal adoption.
"These two calendars may not be the calendars at all that we come back with, but we had to have a starting point," Autry said. "There may be other options out there that we haven't thought of. ... It's not necessarily a majority rule."
RCPS could experience a $10 million to $15 million shortfall in the budget for next school year due to decreased federal, state and local tax revenues.