FORT VALLEY -- Peach County students will get three more days in the classroom in the 2015-16 school year.
That decision came at Tuesday’s school board meeting, as the board voted unanimously to approve a calendar that includes 176 school days and four furlough days. The 2014-15 school calendar has 173 instructional days and seven furlough days.
Byron Middle School Principal Jeff Bell said the board’s move was a positive one.
“Any more days with students in the classroom is a good thing,” he said.
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Other moves discussed at the meeting were part of the effort to get the district in position to take away furlough days, with district staff putting several contracts up for bid and finding savings in the process. One of those contracts was the copier lease agreement, and Jacob Gresham -- the county’s director of technology -- proposed a new deal with Ricoh for $2,312.06 a month.
The district already was working with Ricoh but had two separate contracts that added up to $9,703 per month, which means the new deal will save more than $88,000 per year. The board approved the contract unanimously.
“That’s almost a furlough day,” said Superintendent Daryl Fineran. “Any time you can bid things out and save some money, it helps your bottom line.”
Fineran estimated that each instructional day added back would cost the district a little less than $100,000. With tests, assessments and other requirements becoming more demanding each year, he’s hopeful the county can keep adding instructional days.
“We need every day we can get,” Fineran said. “The traditional schedule is 180 days for kids. I wish we could do more than 180 days for kids.”
While 176 was the highest number Peach County schools could fund, the board discussed future efforts to add more days. Key to reaching that goal will be any savings from moving the county’s freshmen back to the Peach County High School campus from the Trojan Academy at the old Hunt Middle School building.
The students will still be separated as best as possible, but some positions in food service, administration and faculty will no longer be necessary. That will allow the district to save on personnel when retiring and resigning employees aren’t replaced.
Virginia Dixon, the school board’s vice chairwoman, worked in education for 38 years prior to her board service. She said she was encouraged by the potential for Peach County to get closer to a full schedule again.
“I would be very excited to get back to 180 days,” she said. “I think it’s important to give the kids as much time as possible.”
To contact writer Jeremy Timmerman, call 744-4331.