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Auburn Union plans for furlough days

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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Auburn Union schools are taking a week off in February, but it’s no vacation. District administrators are taking Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger up on his offer, made by way of the 2009-2010 state budget, to drop instructional days from the school year. “Due to the state budget crisis the California Legislature has allowed districts to drop five instructional days per year until 2012-2013,” said Michele Schuetz, Auburn Union Elementary School District. Auburn Union schools will be closed the week of Feb. 15-19, with students and staff heading back into the classrooms on Tuesday, Feb. 23. Feb. 15 and Feb. 22 are scheduled holidays, but Feb. 16-19 are furlough days, so to speak. “Through negotiations it was requested that we take the four days between the two Monday holidays to give our students, families, and staff the week off,” Schuetz said. Certificated staff, including teachers, has also cut one staff-development day. District management and confidential staff — district administrative assistants, for example — has taken the equivalent of 10 unpaid days. Schuetz said the district is still in negotiations with classified staff. So, as of now, teachers, administrators and the majority of central office staff are taking furlough days, Schuetz said. This action saves the district more than $550,000 after a two-year period, she said. “Furlough days equate to reduced salaries,” said Gayle Garbolino-Mojica, Placer County superintendent of schools. “You save in teacher salaries. You save in staff salaries.” Garbolino-Mojica said districts have the option to cut staff development days, instructional days or both. “We have seen a variety of things across our county,” she said. Placer Union High School District, for example, furloughed two staff development days and three management days, said Doug Marquand, assistant superintendent of administrative services. In the case of teacher development days, staff only had one development day instead of three for the school year. “For management, it’s just taken off their salary schedule,” Marquand said. Placer Union won’t be cutting into instructional hours, Marquand said. “No one wants to reduce (instructional) days. That’s fundamentally against the mission of a school,” he said. Sam Schug, Auburn Elementary School principal, understands that the district faces extremely difficult decisions when making budget cuts. However, he’s also concerned about how cutting four days from the school year will impact students. “How do you take four days of curriculum and squeeze them into additional days? Our days don’t get longer,” he said. “We have some of the best teachers here, and they’re going to do what they can to make sure there’s not a gap.” Schuetz is also concerned about the impact on students and teachers. “The loss of instructional days will impact teachers on what they need to teach, other staff and their workload, and students on what they need to learn,” she said. “It does compact learning and workload in a fewer number of days. However, with a district looking at a $ 1.4 million deficit to be filled for 2010-11, it was a necessary first step.” Logistics is another concern for families planning around this school-free week. Rob Haswell has two children enrolled at Skyridge School. “It’s tough for working parents,” he said. “Obviously, it presents another challenge, coming up with child care. We’re both working parents, so to try and get time off, a whole week, is a challenge.” Haswell said it will definitely be a challenge to make sure his first-grader and fourth-grader are taken care of during the furlough week. Auburn Recreation District and the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn are doing what they can to help. Auburn Recreation District will host a Discover Day Camp for students in kindergarten through sixth grade from Feb. 16-19. Hours are 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day, and registration is $20 for families of students who aren’t already enrolled in the Discovery Club after-school program. Cost is $28 per day, and information is available at auburnrec.com or by calling (530) 885-8461. Plans are also being made for a President’s Week Day Camp, which will be held 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Feb. 15-19 at the Mullin & McAdams Clubhouse, 679 Lincoln Way. The clubhouse will also remain open to all members, from 2-6 p.m. each day that week. The weeklong camp costs $50 for members. “The kids need a place to be,” said Jana Iversen, director of programs and training for the Boys & Girls Club of Auburn. Call (530) 889-2273 for more information.