Maine schools have $39 million in federal money headed their way in the coming weeks as part of a $10 billion federal funds package meant to stave off teacher layoffs in time for the start of the school year.

But a provision in the federal legislation that awards the money allows schools to hold off on spending it, setting a Sept. 30, 2012, deadline for issuing the last checks.

The Maine Department of Education today confirmed that school districts can set aside their education jobs money and start spending it in a year, rather than spend it immediately to rehire employees sidelined by budget cuts or hire new personnel.

That’s welcome news for school superintendents thinking ahead to the 2011-12 school year, when the $59 million they’re receiving this school year from the federal economic stimulus package expires.

“We’re excited at the prospect of receiving some additional help,” said Greg Potter, superintendent of the eight-town Sheepscot Valley Regional School Unit. “We’re hoping to find ways to mitigate the impact of the cliff that’s going to come from the final expenditures of the original stimulus funds.”

Maine school officials have yet to receive official word that they can hold off on spending the education jobs money, Potter said. But guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Education on spending the funds notes that schools have until Sept. 30, 2012, to spend their allotment.