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Hillsborough Board eyes 4-day summer school

TAMPA — Hillsborough officials are proposing a four-day summer school week as they look to cut another $26-million from this year's budget, a consequence of the dismal economy.

At a meeting Tuesday, School Board members discussed a plan to close all schools and offices on Fridays this summer — a move officials said would save at least $1.2-million.

But working parents would need to change child care arrangements. Hills­borough Out-of-School-Time, a day care program, enrolls an average of 3,000 students in the summer. Nearly 17,000 students participated last year in summer school classes that range from Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test academies to academic enrichment camps.

Hillsborough has yet to work out the details of a four-day week, which Pinellas school officials also are looking at to save money. The Hillsborough School Board is expected to vote on the summer schedule next month.

"It would put money on the table," Hillsborough deputy superintendent Ken Otero said. "It would prevent cuts in other areas."

But the budget picture could get even worse. The state recently finalized a 2 percent reduction for Hillsborough's current budget, on top of $45-million in budget cuts last year. School officials say they could face another $29-million hit later this year, based on Florida's grim revenue picture.

The four-day summer week is just the start of cost-saving measures under discussion. School officials plan to review everything from shorter schedules for some year-round employees to how many square feet of space each custodian should clean.

"We said from the beginning that we don't want to lay anyone off. We want to hold classrooms harmless," said School Board chairwoman Carol Kurdell. "Let's try to protect what our basic mission is, which is to educate children."

Except in rare cases, school officials are prepared to stop allowing teachers to defer their retirement beyond five years, an option in the state's retirement program. Though relatively few teachers qualify, school officials anticipate saving more than $4.5-million because these experienced instructors are among the highest paid.

School officials also are examining support staff positions at middle and high schools and how they allocate custodians, teacher aides and assistants and school administrators.

Superintendent MaryEllen Elia plans to survey employees to get their input on the budget. But she cannot promise that the statewide financial picture won't get worse, requiring even more cuts locally.

Letitia Stein can be reached at lstein@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3400. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Hillsborough Board eyes 4-day summer school 11/25/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 25, 2008 11:13pm]

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