The Defense Department will furlough teachers in September, officials announced Wednesday. The exact dates of the five days schools will not teach classes will be decided by school principals, and will be released to parents through the individual schools the week of May 26, officials said.
“We just delivered advanced noticed of furloughs to our employees on Tuesday [May 21],” said Marilee Fitzgerald, the director of the Defense of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA). “What you will see now is our principals working with our communities … to select days.”
Defense Department has issued 11 unpaid furloughs to its civilian employees to be completed by Oct. 1.
Over 11,000 DoDEA teachers will be furloughed as part of the DoD-wide civilian furlough plan, officials said. About 84,000 children will be impacted, with about 60,000 of those at overseas bases.
Teachers and some school staff members are considered nine-month employees. Those employees face a five-day furlough versus the 11 days for 12-month employees. Teacher furloughs will translate into about $23 million in savings for the Defense Department, Fitzgerald said.
Schools will be completely closed during school hours on furlough days, but any activities that occur after the regular school day such as sports practices, games, or clubs will go on as scheduled, Fitzgerald said.
“The goal would be minimize the impact, and all the activities can occur after school,” she said.
Since many installations are home to more than one DoDEA school, principals in individual locations have been asked to coordinate their furlough days with each other so the entire base is furloughed at once, Fitzgerald said.
“Our schools are working to have the same furlough days in the community,” she said. “Our advice to them and our guidance to them has been to be consistent where they can across the base. The goal is to try having consistency throughout the community.”
Rather than using days set aside in the school year for snow days as furlough make-up time, teachers will instead integrate the missed teaching into regularly scheduled school hours, Fitzgerald said.
Fitzgerald said she plans to encourage school officials at the individual schools to help parents come up with alternative child care on furlough days.
“Certainly I think in each of our communities our principals will help our families look for opportunities to provide care for their children,” she said “I think they’ll be a valuable resource, because they know the communities well and they probably understand where these child care opportunities will be.”
But some parents were more concerned about the loss of instruction than finding something for their child to do on the furlough day.
“I think we’ll probably be OK with keeping him occupied. Since it’s going to be in September and the weather will be OK, we should be able to find things to do,” said Army wife Ashley Michaud, whose 7-year-old son will start second grade on Fort Campbell, Ky., in August. “I guess my biggest concern is that they’re missing so many days and how that’s going to affect the end of the school year.”
Fitzgerald said officials have done everything they can to ensure the furloughs will not impact the system’s accreditation or students’ education.
“Through this process … our goal was to preserve the accreditation of our schools, to ensure that we provide a full academic year for our children,” she said. “In all that we have done here at DoDEA … we have been focused on mitigating the impact of sequestration and furlough on our students.”