Oregon Trail School District implements furlough days to balance budget
In an effort to offset potential budgetary shortfalls next year, the Oregon Trail School District has announced there will be four furlough days for educators and staff before the end of this school year.
School districts and other agencies across the state are expecting a significant reduction in state revenues and a resulting deficit in the state budget because of the COVID-19 crisis.
To buffer the effects locally, the school districts volunteer budget committee met on April 21 and approved "a conservative approach to spending."
"While it appears the effect of the health crisis will be even more significant than anticipated, we are addressing the challenge with the same strategic mindset that has helped us persist through prior financial downturns," the district said in a statement.
After negotiating with employee groups, the district implemented furlough days for May 27, May 29, June 2 and June 4 as a cost saving measure. In order to supplement employees' pay that they'd otherwise lose, the district will utilize a state program called Work Share, which will compensate employees for the hours they lose to furlough through partial unemployment.
"On behalf of my membership, I wish I had better news to share but the recent and proposed state budget cuts have already determined our future, to some extent," said Megan Durst Smith, teacher and co-president of the Wy'East Education Association. "Oregon Trail Schools are facing millions in cuts, which we all know unfortunately means that our Sandy-area students will lose out. We agreed to furlough days this year in an effort to save jobs and money for next year, when we hope to be back in buildings with our students. This was not an easy decision, nor one that any of us take lightly. We all miss our students and want nothing more than to return to the classrooms we love. We are hopeful that these sacrifices, along with the fiscal responsibilities of the district, will provide the best opportunities for our students and, ultimately, the community at large."
"The Oregon Work Share Program will compensate employees for lost pay while saving the district about $450,000 that will help mitigate anticipated shortfalls next school year — protecting more jobs, more school days, and more vital programs for students," the district administrators explained.
During the days on which teachers are furloughed, students may still continue to work on incomplete assignments and projects but will not have access to teachers. The furloughs will not affect previously scheduled events, such as the Sandy High graduation procession on Friday, May 29, or the scheduled parent pick-ups for student belongings or learning packets.
The district administration plans to send out more information after the Oregon Legislature meets regarding the state revenue forecast. No date has been set for the special session. The revenue forecast was released Wednesday, May 20.
"I was a little worried about how the furlough days would affect my class schedule, but I've been able to adjust," Sandy High math teacher Aleta Doss said. "I am pleased (the district) made the decision early on so we'll be in the best position possible fiscally for the next school year. I think it would have more of an impact if we were to miss in-person days next year than days now."
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