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Hall County schools change work week
New summer schedule cuts back days to save money on utility costs
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The Hall County school system is pioneering a 10-hour, four-day work week this summer in an effort to save money on utility costs.

"Our hope is this will allow us to shut down most of our spaces for one day a week," Superintendent Will Schofield said. "There will be times when it won't work, but 90 percent of our facilities will be able to be closed on Fridays."

He estimated the county will save between $20,000 and $25,000. The four-day work weeks will begin June 6, run through July 22 and will affect maintenance, technology and 12-month employees.

Schofield said the response from affected employees has been positive.

Lois Myers, Lyman Hall Elementary School principal, said she was in favor of the changes, and added she doesn't know of any principal who already doesn't put in 10-hour workdays.

Eddie Millwood, principal at C.W. Davis Middle School, also said he didn't see a problem with the changes.

"I think it's fine," he said. "We should still be able to get the work done, and it'll be more convenient for parents if they have to come by and register or something; the extended hours will make it easier especially if they work during the day."

Schofield said employees could begin work two hours early, work two hours later or add one hour onto each end of the day.

Damon Gibbs, Johnson High School principal, said he spoke with his janitorial staff about the changes and they seemed in favor.

"It will take a lot of maintenance vehicles off the road one day a week, so there's fuel savings as well," said Gibbs, who will direct special purpose local option sales tax projects come June 1.

Gainesville City Schools also will have the option to have a four-day work week during two or three weeks in July, Superintendent Merrianne Dyer said.

"We're having summer school at several locations all through June, but in July we will only be having summer school at the high school," she said.

Dyer said the rest of the buildings, when not in use for summer school, would be put under an energy saving plan.

She said last summer the school system used a four-day work week for most locations and saw a "substantial amount" of savings, but the plan couldn't be repeated this year because of the number of students in summer school.

Gainesville City Schools Associate Superintendent David Shumake said last summer, the board's efforts to reduce utilities costs saved between 42 and 45 percent. He said this summer the board plans to consolidate activities into just a couple of buildings and monitor the environment of all facilities in order to minimize costs.

The board plans to reduce costs at least to the level they were last summer, Shumake said.

Hall County Schools is also saving money by using diesel futures contracts, Schofield said. One such contract was purchased Monday.

"We booked a lot of futures. The dollar has actually strengthened," he said. "The last 18 months we've saved $80,000 booking in contracts."

Jewel Armour, Hall County Schools executive director of operations, said the board watches crude oil futures online and call when an attractive price comes up.

"It's a little tricky because you're hoping it'll be cheaper to buy a futures contract than to purchase from the supplier," Armour said.

In order to book futures contracts, Armour said the school board has to accept 42,000 gallons of diesel.

"We have five diesel tanks. It's pretty easy to use 42,000 gallons in any given month," he said.

For September, the board paid 40 cents per gallon less than originally budgeted.

"We'll continue to book contracts if we see additional dips," Schofield said.

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