Four unpaid furlough days this upcoming school year will be spread out from September to March, according to a memo released late last week by the San Ramon Valley Unified School District.
Though it means two fewer days for teachers to teach and two fewer to prepare for class, some parents said it may be nice to have their children home for a couple more days.
"It's not all bad," said Vicky True, a Danville resident and president of the Education Fund at Charlotte Wood Middle School. "I feel that given the situation with the state budget, it could have been a lot worse."
Yet others stress that it's another two days they need to worry about day care.
"Especially for parents of elementary schoolers," said San Ramon resident Sandra Kotilis, a teacher at Pine Valley Middle School whose son attends California High School. "For older kids, like mine, it's not as much of an issue, but for parents of younger students I can see how it'd be more of a headache."
Still, as True said, with the district forced to slash $30 million from its two-year budget, it certainly could have been much worse.
The district at first suggested lopping off five days from the school year. Labor union compromises made early in May allowed for only four. Teachers take a small pay cut with four fewer work days, but it saves the district $3 million—that's $750,000 per day—to cut class days down to 178 for the next school year. About $2.2 million of those savings came from teacher concessions.
But even with a shorter school year in 2010-11, the district remains three days over the 175 minimum instructional days required by the state.
"We are significantly over on instruction minutes," district spokesman Terry Koehne wrote in an e-mail Wednesday. "What the state has done is give districts flexibility regarding the number of instructional days."
The first furlough day comes Sept. 3, the Friday linked to the Labor Day holiday weekend. Typically, it's a school day with low student and staff attendance, according to the district.
"Utilizing this as a budget-cut day will help prevent loss of funding from poor attendance," wrote the district in a memo released last week.
The second budget-cut day is one normally set aside for staff development—that means it's not a class day. It's scheduled for Nov. 5 for elementary schools and Jan. 24 for secondary schools.
The third is what would have been a normal school day for students, and it's set for Feb. 18, the day before the President's Day holiday weekend, making for a four-day holiday weekend for students and school employees.
The final furlough day is another non-instructional day— it would have been the last staff development day of the year—and it's set for March 21.
The budget-cut days translate to a salary cut that's spread out over the entire school year instead of smaller paychecks during the months with furlough days, according to the district.
Kotilis said that the district did a good job in choosing furlough days linked to school holidays.
"I know even this past week (before the Memorial Day weekend), several of my students were absent," said Kotilis, who teaches sixth-grade at Pine Valley Middle School in San Ramon. "So if you're going to cut a day, it's good to cut it near a holiday."
That could mean that she'll see a spike in absenteeism the day before furlough days, she noted.
Still, what it gets down to, she added, is that she has less time to teach and her students have less time to learn. Even if the situation isn't the worst-case scenario, she said it's still unwanted.
"As a teacher, I don't think there are enough hours in the day to teach all the things they need to hear and to make sure they really learned everything," she said. "It's not that much time, when you think about it."
Hopefully, she said, the dire fiscal scenario will start looking up.
"We're hoping that next year, we'll get those days back," she said. "Because when it gets down to it, we can't afford to lose class time. Our students need to learn."