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Wilkes Co.’s 162 day school calendar approved

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With the final passage of North Carolina's budget last week, the General Assembly has also given approval to a school calendar pilot project in Wilkes. Superintendent Stephen Laws said last week that the calendar would shorten the school year to 162 days and lengthen the school day by 45 minutes.

"School will start 15 minutes earlier in the morning and dismiss 30 minutes later in the afternoon," Laws said.

Although Wilkes County's School Board approved the calendar resolution at its July 24 meeting, the calendar still had to have legislative approval. North Carolina state law requires that the school calendar be 180 days, and include 1,000 hours of instruction. Wilkes new calendar provides for classroom instruction time to be in excess of the 1,000 hours.

Wilkes County Schools started calling on Friday, Aug. 7, using the school messenger system to notify parents of the new calendar and the times that their child’s school will open and close. The actual times differs at the individual schools by just a few minutes. The new school calendar dates returns students to classes on Aug. 24, with May 21, 2010 being the last day of classes for the 09-10 school year.

State Sen. Steve Goss proposed the new calendar to the legislators, with the support of Rep. Shirley Randleman.

"We could save up to $900,000 with the new calendar," Laws said. "This would also allow us to save our teacher positions."

The savings come primarily from operating costs, such as reduced pay for hourly workers and from reduced utility bills, and fuel costs.

The calendar change saved 30 teaching positions in the Wilkes County system.

The budget cuts for Wilkes County were less severe than anticipated, also allowing to maintain more positions of assistants, although hours will be cut.

"These cuts are felt in all facets of our school budget, and will total several million dollars," Laws said. "There will be fewer positions at each school and with central administration, but we have been able to absorb them through attrition.

Students and teachers will see larger class sizes in grades 4-12, but we don't anticpate student numbers in excess. Teacher assistants, cafeteria workers and school bus drivers, who are all paid by the hour, will see reduced income," he said.

Wilkes County's school budget is an estimated 74 million dollars.

There also will be fewer positions in the county's kindergarten classes. A new state law changing entry requirements for kindergarten students will mean fewer kindergarten students starting school in the fall. Kindergarten students must now be five years old by Aug. 31 instead of Oct. 15, 2009. Some of the teachers affected by the change will be teaching other grades, and replacing teachers leaving from retirement.

Laws also thanked the Wilkes County commissioners for their continued support of the school system by not cutting the budget amount to the schools.

"In comparison to many other counties, we are blessed to maintain our funding level and keep people employed," he said. ""Our principals have also been phenomenal in planning for their schools with drastic reductions in resources. Our board of education has been willing to try something different in an effort to save jobs. And most of all thanks to our parents, staff, and students who have been overwhelmingly supportive of the calendar change."

Link - http://www.elkintribune.com/view/full_story/3138757/article-Wilkes-Co-%E2%80%99s-162-day-school-calendar-approved

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