The Polk County School Board on Tuesday voted to shorten the school year by 20 days in an attempt to save money.
The board also adopted block scheduling in high schools. That system is already in place at the system’s middle schools, where students attend four 105-minute classes each day.
“This decision is just a segment of the whole budget scenario,” said Superintendent Marvin Williams.
The only thing known for certain is Rockmart High School and Cedartown High School will start class at 7:55 a.m. and end the day at 3:45 p.m.
Education officials estimated the move will save $229,000.
“I want to go on record and let everyone know that this is not an easy decision for any board member,” said board member Tara O’Neal, who voted against the measure.
Chairman Andy Fairel said that he believes this is the best option because the parents he spoke with were adamantly opposed to a four-day week because of the strain it would cause on individual families.
“And if we do nothing and leave (the schedule) the way it was, there’s no possibility of saving money,” he said.
O’Neal said she believed that adding an additional class period for high schoolers might force the district to hire new teachers, cutting the savings for the year by half with just one additional salary.
“Will this fix everything? Is it the perfect solution? Absolutely not,” said Williams. “But we won’t know about the exact amount of money we will save until we try.”
Cedartown’s Amy Payne, who has two boys in the school system, one in the seventh grade and the other a fourth-grader, sees the issue as one of simple economics.
“I was in business owner in Polk County for 20 years and we have to run our county as a businesses, and from a business standpoint, if your figures don’t add up, you have to do something different.”
She said that Superintendent Williams was looking at preventing job losses.
“The lunch staff and school bus drivers don’t make a whole lot of money,” Payne said. “They money saved will help pay a lot of their salaries.”
The 160-day calendar would lengthen instruction time by one hour each day.
Polk County parents and students would not see a change in holiday breaks, said Williams, but he hopes the board will finalize a schedule that allows classes to begin after Labor Day and end early in June to save on utility costs. A finalized calendar is expected by May.
Bettie Fay Lewis joined O’Neal in voting against the proposal.
Voting for the measure were Fairel, Chuck Thaxton, Grady McCrickard, John Stone, Tommy Sanders and Jane Holbrooks. Board member Harold Wingfield came to the meeting after the vote was cast.
Guests also stated that the change would not affect the board’s accreditation from the state, nor the salary, sick days and issue of substitutes for the teachers in Polk County.
Polk School District’s current budget is $61 million with 86 percent marked for payroll. To date, no positions have been cut but no replacements have been funded.
Staff Writer Krystin Fain, of the Cedartown Standard, and Rome News-Tribune Deputy Editor Mike Colombo contributed to this report.