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Furloughs add to schools holiday break
Hall, Gainesville schools shut down for the whole week
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Thanksgiving vacation for students and staff in the Gainesville and Hall County school systems will be a little longer this year due to furlough days.

Last June, Hall County Schools announced eight furlough days and Gainesville City Schools announced 10 furlough days for the 2010-2011 school year to combat the budget crisis.

However, federal stimulus funds from the jobs bill, approved by Congress in August, lessened the impact.

Gainesville was able to cut a furlough day scheduled for March 11, while Hall County restored a former furlough day Feb. 21.

For the first time this year, students and teachers in both systems will have a full week off for Thanksgiving break as today and Tuesday were designated as furlough days. School buildings will be shut down through Sunday.

While any furlough day is unfortunate, Gainesville Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said this week was a good time to have them.

"There is a limited amount of instruction that can be followed through this week and there's a good bit of absenteeism on those days for people who travel great distances," Dyer said.

Centennial Arts Academy special education teacher Martha Thompson said she looks forward to spending extra time with her family at a reunion this break, but that the days off also shorten planning time for teachers. The unpaid days are also difficult, she added.

"It's quite a big cut. And families with two teachers are especially affected," Thompson said.

For North Hall High School teacher Tessa Shirley, she expects to spend her break catching up on grading papers. As a yearbook advisor, she will also spend a few days at the school this week to work with students on their deadline.

"I'm also excited for some downtime to chill with the family," Shirley said.

Because of the high schools transition from a four-block schedule to a seven-period day this year, teachers didn't lose time to prep students for standardized exams.

"Because of the switch from block, we don't have exams coming up like we usually do. Many are giving midterms, but there's not the crunch of end of semester grades this time. Final grades don't happen until May," Shirley said.

Shirley added that most standardized tests and the end of course exams occur in the spring.

Hall County spokesperson Gordon Higgins said school buildings will be closed, but parents should check to see if there are athletic events scheduled at their school during the week.

Dyer said that although day camps have been held at some schools during Thanksgiving break in the past, no camps have been planned this year.