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Teacher furloughs to close Pacific schools five days in September

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Military base schools in the Pacific will close for five days in September under a plan that will furlough teachers to cut federal spending, school officials said Monday.

Department of Defense Education Activity schools will close on Sept. 3, which is the Tuesday after the Labor Day holiday; and on Sept. 9, 16, 23 and 30, which are all Mondays.

“We intentionally selected Mondays to avoid conflicts with scheduled activities, athletics and events,” DODEA Pacific senior civilian Martha Brown wrote in a memo to employees.

Although schools will be closed to teachers and students on furlough days, the front office at each school will remain open, as will district and area administration offices.

The five-day teacher furloughs are the result of automatically triggered budget cuts known as sequestration, which sliced approximately $42 billion from this year’s defense budget after Congress failed to pass targeted spending cuts by March 1.

Eleven- and 12-month employees should prepare to be furloughed for 11 days between July 8 and Sept. 30, according to school officials. About 10 percent of DODEA Pacific’s 3,600 employees fall into that category, including school administrators and support staff.

Supervisors will coordinate with employees to ensure that everyone in a department isn’t taking their furlough days at the same time, DODEA Pacific spokesman Charly Hoff said Monday.

It is illegal for employees on furlough to work, which includes actions like answering phones or checking email, according to Brown’s memo.

Furloughed employees working on extra-duty contracts, such as sports coaches, are allowed to work, but only outside of their regular school teaching hours.

Federal employees originally faced up to 22 days of unpaid leave when sequestration began, but that figure was cut to 11 days after Pentagon officials found other cost-saving measures.

School teachers are paid for 9 ½ months out of the year, and as a result will only lose five days to furloughs.

DODEA Pacific officials are still holding out some hope for congressional action that would further reduce or eliminate the furlough entirely. There haven’t been any public comments recently by lawmakers that would indicate an end to sequestration before the 2013 fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.

“We want to make sure everyone has ample time to plan,” Hoff said. “But as we’ve said throughout this process, things can and do change.”

The 2013-14 school year begins on Aug. 26 in Europe and the Pacific, with teachers reporting on Aug. 21.

slavin.erik@stripes.com

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