Yadkin County students will see a longer school day but a short school year starting with the 2013-14 school year.
The change comes after a legislative change in wording in the school attendance requirements by the school.
“In previous years the wording of the state law was that all public schools would go to school 185 days and 1,025 instructional hours,” said Stewart Hobbs, Yadkin County superintendent. “They changed the ‘and’ to an ‘or’ which allows us the option to send kids to school 185 days or 1,025 instructional hours.”
The result is Yadkin County Schools lengthening their days by 20 minutes and shortening their school year by 12 days.
Hobbs said that he thinks the change comes after the state wanted to provide some flexibility to schools in the western part of the state for those years when there were excessive amounts of inclement weather so that they would be able to get their requirements in before the last school day.
The change allowed Yadkin County schools to look into lengthening the school day and shortening the school year. The county looked to Wilkes County schools when deciding how to go about the change. Wilkes County has been shortening the school year for four years.
Before the school calendar committee started meeting they took a survey of faculty and staff to see what they would like to see this year.
“I surveyed our faculty and staff before we started the calendar process and gave them the option of 160 to 170 days, 170 to 180 days or 180-185 days,” Hobbs said. “There were only a handful of faculty and staff that wanted to go with the last two options. A majority of the staff surveyed wanted to look at going somewhere between 160 to 170 days.”
Hobbs said that many people disagree with the decision to shorten the school year and will also say that students already don’t attend school enough. Hobbs disagrees that the number of days students attend equates to the quality of education they receive.
“My personal opinion is that it’s not about the number of days, I think it’s more about the quality of the teachers you have in the classroom and the quality of instruction that is taking place,” Hobbs said. “If you don’t have good teachers and quality instruction going on you can go to school 365 days a year and you’re not going to have learning.”
Hobbs said that shortening the school year is going to benefit the schools by allowing students to get their exams in before the Christmas holidays as well as allowing high school students to take dual enrollment classes with Surry Community College without being disadvantaged.
“Next year the schools will start back on August 19 and if we didn’t shorten the school year then there was no way we would be able to get our exams in before Christmas,” Hobbs said.
Some disadvantages of the of the shorter school year will be 12 days of pay that nutrition workers and bus drivers will lose with students not being in school. Teachers will also have to plan an additional 20 minutes of lesson plans to each school day.
Hobbs said that he expects that the school will save between $100,000 to $200,000 with these changes. He predicts a $56,000 savings in child nutrition, $60,000 in transportation and between $80,000 and $100,000 savings in heating and air and electricity.
“We cut 26 teaching positions last year, we had to send back $1.3 million in discretionary cuts to the state and we’re facing that discretionary cut again this year and we won’t know until the first of the year how much it will be this year,” Hobbs said. “We were very fortunate this past year that we cut 26 position but we didn’t send anybody home that wanted to work but I don’t know if we can do that next year unless we look for some ways to cut some money.”
Hobbs said that this $200,000 could help the schools significantly because they will also be facing local budget cuts after results from their audit shows that they used $1 million of their $2 million fund balance to balance the budget.
“If you do the math and I’m using $1 million this year then I’m not going to have enough next year,” Hobbs said. “$100,000 to $200,000 would really help when it comes time for those cuts; especially when 85 percent of my budget is tied up in salaries.”
Hobbs said that he will monitor the new system very closely next year to make sure that it is benefiting the school system as a whole.
“We have to look at every way we can to be more efficient while not jeopardizing student’s education so we’re going to monitor it very closely this year,” Hobbs said. “We’re going to monitor student performance, we’re going to monitor student and teacher attendance and we’re going to monitor our savings.”
Reach Lindsay Craven at 679-2341 or at email@example.com.