IUSD school year to be reduced by four days

The IUSD school year will be reduced by four days this year as a result of the precipitous drop in state funding, and employee groups have agreed to take eight additional furlough days in 2010-11, Superintendent Gwen Gross announced Tuesday.

Earlier in the day, the Board of Education ratified a contract agreement – which included the furlough days – with the Irvine Teachers Association, and Board members approved similar settlements with other IUSD bargaining groups. (The district has a tentative agreement with the California School Employees Association, which represents its classified employees.)

In a letter to staff and the community, Dr. Gross said furloughs are “far from ideal,” but necessary to cope with California’s fiscal crisis. The superintendent announced that all schools will be closed on June 7, June 8, June 14 and June 15 to accommodate the districtwide furloughs, which will help IUSD bridge a budget gap projected to exceed $20 million in 2010-11.

Here’s the full text:

Dear IUSD community member:

This morning, our Board of Education voted to ratify a contract agreement with the Irvine Teachers Association that includes four furlough days for 2009-10 and eight furlough days for 2010-11. Similar settlements were also approved for our administrators and administrative assistants to the principals. Meanwhile, our classified employees, represented by the California School Employees Association, have reached a tentative agreement for 2009-10.

Together, these are significant strides toward balancing the budget for the next fiscal year, and I want to thank all of our employees for getting us to this point. We have seen a tremendous show of collaboration, purpose of mission and shared sacrifice across all levels of our organization, and words are insufficient to express my admiration and appreciation.

Like increased class sizes and program cuts, furlough days are far from ideal. They represent lost income for our employees and lost instructional time for our students. Yet we believe they are necessary, along with other reductions, for our district to cope with the precipitous drop in funding as a result of the state budget crisis. Note that one furlough day for all IUSD employees equates to approximately $715,000 in savings. That means 12 furlough days will generate nearly $8.6 million, negating the need for even deeper reductions that could decimate our district and therefore jeopardize our recovery. Remember that our funding is generally tied to local property values, which in turn are tied to the quality of our schools.

This is, without question, the worst economic climate we’ve ever had to endure, and given the unprecedented nature of this crisis, we are being forced to respond swiftly to seismic shifts in our budgetary landscape. That often means developing contingency plans proactively. To that end, a committee with representatives from our bargaining groups, our parent community and our administration convened last week to identify which instructional days our district would eliminate if furloughs were secured for the current year. With this morning’s ratification, and at least tentative agreements with our other bargaining units in place, I wish to announce that our 2009-10 furlough days will be observed on Monday, June 7; Tuesday, June 8; Monday, June 14; and Tuesday, June 15.

I recognize these dates may pose challenges for some of you. In a dynamic district such as ours, each and every calendar day is filled with scores of curricular plans, special activities, assemblies and extracurricular events that define IUSD. But with fiscal solvency at stake, we believe our staff and families will be able to make adjustments to accommodate these changes to the school year.

I know that many of you will have additional questions, and we’ll do our best to provide answers as soon as possible on our webpage of Frequently Asked Questions. More information will also be provided in the days and weeks ahead through our regular channels of communication, including our website, our Budget Notebook publications, e-mails and the IUSD NewsFlash.

Thank you.

To read the story in the Orange County Register, click here.

Update: To view the calendars for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years, click here.