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Schools to announce sequestration impact next week

Calvin Yang listens as Cameron Gonzales, first grade/kindergarten teacher, gives instructions during the Summer Enrichment Program held by Seoul American elementary and middle schools in Seoul, July 2, 2010.

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — Students attending Department of Defense Dependents Schools should learn the impact of government funding cuts within a few days, officials said Thursday.

In a letter to parents, DOD Education Activity Japan District superintendent Lois Rapp said an announcement of “school-level” plans to deal with sequestration — $50 billion in defense spending cuts — will come next week.

The letter does not lay out any of the options that officials are considering but cites a DODEA website — www.dodea.edu/budget — that suggests the impact of the cuts will be “significant.”

More than 84,000 students attending 194 schools worldwide are affected by the cuts, along with 15,000 staff, including 8,000 teachers, the website states.

Teachers and principals, likely to be furloughed for 22 days before Sept. 30, have warned that schools may have to cut back to four days of instruction each week or shorten the school year.

However, DODEA states on its website that officials’ first priority is to mitigate the negative impact of sequestration on education.

“The Department intends to implement sequestration in a manner that preserves the ability to provide students a full school year of academic credit, including completion of final exams, and to maintain school accreditation standards,” the website states.

Steps already taken by DODEA include restrictions on official travel, staff transfers, training and conferences, according to the website.

“We understand the anxiety these uncertainties bring to our school communities,” the website states. “While there will be impacts to our students, parents and faculty if furloughs are implemented, the principle guiding DODEA’s planning efforts is to lessen the impacts of sequestration wherever we can.”

Many parents are worried about the impact of the cuts, Rapp said in her letter.

“As professional educators, we share your concerns and have been hard at work for many weeks to determine how best to manage our schools in light of sequestration and possible furlough days,” she wrote.

Many schools, from kindergartens to high schools, have unique operational periods, testing calendars and accreditation standards that require equally unique solutions, she said.

“While we are unable to provide specifics at this time as our plans remain under review, please know that we are in the final planning stages,” Rapp wrote.

“Throughout this process our guiding principles have been and will remain: protecting the quality of education we provide our students and preserving the accreditation of our schools.”

robson.seth@stripes.com

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