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Update: Seattle schools sending a message with furlough

Seattle Public Schools
An administrator helps a student at Lafayette Elementary School in Seattle. The district has decided to furlough nearly all school staff for a day, resulting in closed schools just before students return to class in the fall.

Seattle Public Schools will shut down for a day just before school starts this fall. It will also close early on a later date during the school year.

Lesley Rogers, chief communications officer for Seattle Public Schools, says asking most of its staff to be gone on the same day sends a message to the state.

“I think our community feels a furlough day when it’s all done at one time, the buildings are shut down, people can’t work. I mean, we certainly notice that when the city or county shuts down for a day," Rogers said. "It’s very apparent that there’s a furlough day happening.”

The closures mean principals and nearly all district staff will be gone. That could even include teachers. The school district has reached a tentative agreement with the Seattle Education Association, the union that represents teachers and school staff, but the deal has not been voted on yet. 

Administrators say the district has been forced to furlough employees after the state cut school funding by $1 billion. It's also a response to salary cuts for school staff that legislators put in the budget. The reductions are subject to contract negotiations and some districts are still in talks with unions about how to handle the 3 percent pay cut for principals and 1.9 percent pay cut for teachers and support staff.

District officials say scheduling furloughs simultaneously will turn the district into a ghost town, which would show the public how bad the budget cuts hurt

The full-day closure is set for August 31st. The half-day shutdown has not been scheduled yet, but will likely happen in January or February.

The time would normally be used for training and preparation for the first day of school on September 7th.    

If approved by their union, teachers will also be furloughed for 1 ½ days in the 2012-2013 school year. They'll lose 5 ½ hours of training time, too. The district has agreed to take care of the rest of their salary reductions from the state, totaling roughly one-third of the pay cut.

Charla joined us in January, 2010 and is excited to be back in Seattle after several years in Washington, DC, where she was a director and producer for NPR. Charla has reported from three continents and several outlets including Marketplace, San Francisco Chronicle and NPR. She has a master of journalism from University of California, Berkeley and a bachelor's degree in architecture from University of Washington.
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