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Local school districts battle cuts as they prepare for fall

Published: Jun. 19, 2020 at 12:00 AM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - The coronavirus pandemic has caused a vast amount of challenges when it comes to education. Distanced learning, schools shutting down for months, and making your average ‘back to school’ prep, not so average.

And now it’s caused some serious changes to schools’ budgets. Right now, the budget cut could include up to a 14 percent reduction.

Richmond County school officials say they are working on ways to make sure this school year runs smoothly, regardless of the cuts.

“Regardless to what the budget says education and the safety of our children will be top priority,” said Lynthia Ross, public information officer of Richmond County Schools.

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And over in another big school district, Columbia County Superintendent Sandra Carraway and her team is working on ways to limit the budget.

She says the district stopped hiring recently and are leaving any positions they may have available, vacant.

“We increased class sizes in kindergarten through third grade by one student, which by doing that by one student, we saved about 21 teaching positions,” Carraway said.

Positions, she says, that helped saved several millions of dollars. The school district also planned to reduce its budget by 10 percent overall, which was about $20 million.

Carraway believes if the district must reduce its budget by 14 percent, she is not sure if it will survive another year of deductions.

“Ten percent of the school district’s budget is a lot of money. A 14 percent cut gets so deep that school districts cannot do business,” she said.

Business like staying open and staffed for students to go back to school. If the budget rolls into next year, then that could lead to temporary unemployment for some educators, which is even worse.

“Educators will be furloughed for various numbers of days, and there is just no way that most districts can whether that,” Carraway said.

The local districts we spoke to are all reviewing their budgets thoroughly, to make sure the schools have the resources they need to bring back students in the fall.

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