If you're one of the people who've wondered if a four-day work week would be the way to deal with school budget cuts in Wake County, it's not considered a viable option yet.
Chief Business Officer David Neter laid out eight different options Wednesday they said had been suggested by people, including school board members, for coping with $20 million in state cuts. Those eight options were all rejected for various reasons.
Neter said it would take a change in state law to allow Wake to move to a four-day work week. State law requires schools to have both 180 days and 1,000 hours of instruction.
Wake could lengthen the four school days to get the 1,000 hours. But the district would need state intervention to have less than 180 days.
School board member Anne McLaurin asked if the General Assembly might consider waiving the 180-day rule. School board member Keith Sutton said he doesn't believe it would happen because of the backlash it would generate.
The General Assembly has waived the 180-day rule in years where schools lost a lot of time because of snow and hurricanes.
But if it did happen, Neter said the savings would come from transportation and utilities. But he said that a 20 percent reduction in utility costs would be unlikely because school would be in session longer on the four days.
Joe Desormeaux, assistant superintendent for facilities, also said they wouldn't be able to completely shut down the HVAC systems on that fifth day. He said they'd need to leave it on to prevent mold and address other air quality issues.
There's also the challenges it would pose to parents having to find childcare on that fifth day.
Sutton had suggested creating more Title I schools to get more federal money. But Neter said Wake only gets funding per Title I student, not per school.
Neter said they also looked at getting more stimulus funding. But he said that the state won't be applying again for the next round of Race to the Top funding until June.
Sutton said there might be some individual stimulus grants Wake could get. But he didn't think it would really help with funding existing salaries.
Neter said they had also explored getting the district's potential $70 million share of the fines and forfeiture lawsuit. Superior Court Judge Howard Manning had ruled in 2008 that the state had illegally withheld $747.9 million in civil fines to the school districts.
State legislative leaders have argued that they just don't have the money to comply with the ruling. They've instead talked about supplanting the funds with money that would have already gone to schools.
Neter said it's a good example of the financial challenge that the state and nation are facing. While Wake is legally entitled to its share of the fine money, the money is not there.
Neter said they had also looked at half-day kindergarten. But he said the state statutory requirement for 1,000 hours of instruction would have to be waived.
Interim Supt. Danna Hargens said that families of some 12,000 kindergarten students are counting on it being a full-day program this fall. The class is larger than normal because the state law requiring kids to turn age 5 by Aug. 1 to enter kindergarten went into effect last year.
Hargens also pointed out that it would impact all the full-time kindergarten teachers.
Hargens and Neter also pointed to the positive academic benefits of full-day kindergarten. Neter said North Carolina is among the nine states that require full-day kindergarten.
Neter said they had also looked at a suggestion from board vice chairwoman Debra Goldman to shut down all the traditional-calendar schools over the summer. Neter brought up the health issues that would be raised by shutting down the HVAC systems.
Neter also noted that the schools generate revenue over the summer from groups renting the facilities.
Stephen Gainey, assistant superintendent for human resources, also pointed out how high schools are used during the summer by bands and athletic teams.
Desormeaux also pointed out that they're already planning to cut back on summer custodial service.
Neter said they had also looked at making additional changes to building temperatures. Desormeaux said they had already made a change last year with another already planned for this year.
Neter said they had talked with principals about making even more changes. He said the principals said it's their preference not to make the buildings any hotter in the summer and colder in the winter.
The last option that Neter said they had looked at and rejected was use of furloughs and salary reductions.
Neter said that there's the issue of how the state funds positions based on months of employment. He said Wake could make a 1 percent reduction in salary but the state will still view it as a case of where they're picking up the same months of employment. Neter said there's na way to ask for the money back from the state.
Most school employees are state funded. Neter said they wouldn't have the same problem getting the money back from the locally funded positions. But he said it would create fairness issues in which state-funded teachers are making more money than locally funded ones.
In addition, Neter said that reducing salary would be considered a demotion. In the case of certified staff, such as teachers, appeal hearings would have to be held.
As for furloughs, Neter said there would be legal issues with Wake imposing one on its own. He said it would be different if Gov. Perdue did what she had done last year and ordered a statewide furlough.
Furloughs are also something more used for industrial settings. Neter said schools just can't cut back on capacity like factories. He pointed to how school employees had such a problem taking their 10 hours of leave time when Perdue ordered the furloughs last year.
Instead, Neter presented this list of cuts yesterday. He said the list was developed after talking with principals.
"If we’re going to have to impact schools, we looked at how we could impact them in the least possible manner," Neter said.