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To cover a $600,000 shortfall, the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind will impose three furlough days affecting 2,000 children who receive its services.

The Utah State Board of Education was informed of the cost-cutting measure at its April 8 meeting, when USDB superintendent Steven Noyce reported that revenues for both the 2010 and 2011 fiscal years have failed to meet expectations.

The furloughs cover three of the next four Fridays, April 29 and May 6 and 20. Noyce said it will include all employees, including interpreters and key service providers. Administrative staff will be furloughed for an additional three days.

"We tried to minimize the impacts so we selected Fridays," Noyce said. "At some schools it's an early day out, so they aren't missing out on as much instruction."

In a letter to the board, Noyce described earlier efforts to help the USDB budget.

"Our schools have implemented a hiring freeze, suspension of current expenses, reduction and combining of student transportation routes, and aggressive efforts to collect revenues sources from school contracts and [Utah State Instructional Materials Access Center] invoices," Noyce wrote in a letter to the board.

Large districts are now required to cover the cost of services for their deaf and blind students, provided by contracts with USDB, but that rule was not adopted in time to ensure adequate funding of all of USDB's expenses this year.

"They said they hadn't set aside the money. We counted on money for these services we provided. It puts us all in a tough position. We negotiated with districts for some reimbursements," Noyce said.

USDB is adjusting its budgeting process to make it less reliant on revenue from contracts with school districts.

"We appreciate the action that is being taken and we also recognize the challenge that this creates ... for employees and on through the system for students, most importantly," said State Superintendent Larry Shumway at the board meeting earlier this month.

Board member Carol Murphy expressed concerns at that meeting that students who benefit from the USDB services in their home districts, might not, during the furlough days, get the services schools are required to provide. And she worried those students might have already missed days of school because of furlough days in their home districts.

"In a certain sense, it sets up a system where students with disabilities could take a double cut in services for the year, and I think that isn't or shouldn't be the intention here," Murphy said. "I'm just wondering if we need to think a little more carefully about maybe essential and non-essential services."

Shumway said at the meeting that education officials would examine those issues and explore alternative solutions.

Tamara Lowe, a member of the Davis School District board, also was concerned about students who may have already missed days because of district furloughs this year.

"The double whammy would be really, really a serious thing for a kid to lose two days for the Davis District and three days for this," Lowe said. "That would be a lot."

Shumway said students that only get USDB services part of the day could likely attend their home districts on USDB furlough days. State officials would likely have to review how to handle other situations where students need USDB services all day in their home districts.