By KERRY BENEFIELD
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Santa Rosa City Schools is considering adding at least one, and as many as three, instructional days to the current school year as officials await word on final state budget numbers.
The board Wednesday is expected to vote to move a teacher work day from Dec. 22 to Dec. 23 and make the 22nd an instructional day for middle and high school students, who currently are scheduled to be off school that day. At the elementary level, Dec. 23 would become an added instructional day.
The moves are being made in anticipation of revised budget figures from Sacramento — numbers that could force the district to come back to the calendar and cut a day in May if anticipated revenues don’t show up in state coffers.
If half of the $4 billion in projected tax income doesn’t materialize by the end of the year, K-12 schools statewide would face a cut of nearly $2 billion.
But districts won’t know until early January if the threshold has been met or if the triggers for cuts will be pulled, according to Santa Rosa’s Associate Superintendent Doug Bower.
“All of this is predicated on the district being able to keep the $4.9 million that was in the state budget that we put in our budget,” he said.
Educators say they have reason to believe the state revenues will meet the threshold set out by lawmakers in Sacramento. Should the revenue not materialize, the district is prepared to replace the December furlough day with one on May 4.
“What I’m hearing from (California Teachers Association) people up in the capital is the general feeling is that they are going to make at least the $2 billion revenue target and if they don’t and just miss it, there may not be the political will to do the cuts in education,” said Andy Brennan, president of the Santa Rosa teachers union.
Also being considered is the possibility of adding two more days of instruction for students that are currently scheduled as furlough days on March 16 and April 6. Those moves are dependent on the revised budget figures that are expected to be released in January.
Furlough days save the district about $446,700 a day. If the district eliminates all three remaining furlough days and makes them instructional days, it will cost $1.3 million.
Officials acknowledged that adjusting the calendar mid-year could upset family plans and lead to high absentee rates. The district loses state funding for every day a student is absent.
The issue is particularly acute this year because Christmas falls just two days after the proposed final day of school.
“It’s recognized that (absenteeism) could occur,” Bower said. “The December date is in fact coming fast — it’s attached to Christmas and holidays and we certainly recognize that people are making travel plans.”
Communication will be key, said Trustee Bill Carle.
“The more that information gets out, and the quicker that it gets out, the less likely it is that it will create a problem,” he said.
“It’s a delicate balance,” Brennan said. “The furlough days hurt our ability to deliver instruction. With standards and Program Improvement restrictions coming down, every day is so incredibly important.