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Gainesville students may spend five fewer days in school
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Gainesville City Schools are planning for five fewer school days as teachers face 10 furlough days in the upcoming school year.

The city school board held a special meeting Wednesday to discuss budget cuts and approve the 2010-2011 school calendar before issuing teacher contract renewals on Friday. Gainesville schools must be creative about how to adjust the numbers without hurting paychecks, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.

"We got hit in ways we weren't sure we would," she said.

Legislation passed by the General Assembly gives districts the flexibility to reduce the calendar from 180 days as long as instruction time remains the same. To meet the requirement with the 175-day calendar, Gainesville schools will no longer use early release schedules and some teacher planning days.

"How do we cut $3.1 million? What is the impact?" Dyer wrote on a large pad of paper Monday night while looking at an estimated revenue of $49.5 million and estimated expenditures of $52.6 million. Board members, teacher representatives and after-school providers discussed options to sustain cuts passed down by the state.

The favored option pulls 10 days from the calendar year and reinstitutes the full local supplement for teachers, which was reduced to meet budget for fiscal year 2010. The 10-day reduction, billed at $190,136 per each day of school, reduces the entire budget by $1.9 million. Changes to the calendar include additional days of vacation for students - a five-day weekend in October, a full week for Thanksgiving, a day off in March and the Friday off before spring break in April.

With supplements back in place, teachers can breathe a bit easier, but they also are bracing for any additional state cuts.

"It doesn't make the furloughs seem as bad," said Erica Humphrey, a second-grade teacher at Centennial Arts Academy. "Teachers at my school seemed excited about it."

If revenues roll in higher than anticipated by next March, city schools could cut one or two furlough days at the end of the year, Dyer said.

"We like hope," said Melissa Geyer, a third-grade teacher from New Holland Core Knowledge Academy. "And we hope we can get a day back."

In other business, the board addressed a construction issue at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. To replace the roof and conduct major plumbing and bathroom work this summer, the project had to start this week before school ends for the summer. Although the board has a plan in place to relocate students to other schools, many teachers asked to finish out the school year in the building.

On Tuesday, a piece of equipment broke and released a large amount of smoke into the air. Exhaust fans were turned on, but in reverse, and fumes were pulled into the building. A few parents called with concerns, and the board confronted the construction company, which called the incident a "one-time fluke" and has repaired the piece of equipment. Project managers also agreed at the Wednesday meeting to start work on the building after school hours and on weekends until the school year ends.