The Columbia County school board on Tuesday approved calendars for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years.
School board members already gave initial approval for the calendars March 13 following a lengthy discussion regarding the start dates. Both calendars list the first day of school as Aug. 7.
In 2013, Aug. 7 is a Wednesday. It falls on a Thursday in 2014.
Unhappy with mid-week start dates, school trustee Mike Sleeper pushed for Monday starts dates – Aug. 12 in 2013 and Aug. 11 in 2014 – at the previous meeting.
Board member Kristi Baker agreed with Sleeper and both voted against the calendars earlier this month.
On Tuesday, the board unanimously approved both calenders with no debate.
Superintendent Charles Nagle told the board earlier that the Aug. 7 start date allows teachers to start pre-planning on Aug. 1, the latest date new teachers can start work and still receive immediate health care benefits. Any later, new teachers must wait until October to get those benefits.
Also at the meeting, the board gave final approval to cutting more than 40 teaching positions and nearly 70 teacher aides for next school year.
Salaries for paraprofessionals primarily are funded with local tax dollars, rather than by the state like teachers. Cutting paraprofessional jobs thus saves the school system more money.
Facing a $13 million cut in state funding next school year, Nagle previously told the board the position cuts will save the school system about $4.5 million.
Paraprofessionals in Columbia County make on average $16,000 each year, but the school system also must pay next year an additional $6,000 in state-mandated benefits for each one.
Nagle said he hopes to eliminate the positions through attrition.
The board also moved the start date for prekindergarten to the same as all other grades for the 2012-13 school year.
Last year, after Gov. Nathan Deal cut pre-k days from 180 to 160 days, the board pushed back the start date so the last day of school would coincide for all grade levels.
For next school year, Deal added back 10 more days to the pre-k schedule.