In an effort to balance its budget, the Walnut Valley Unified School District board of trustees voted Wednesday night, February 3, to notify 54 elementary school teachers and about 30 high school educators of their possible layoffs for the 2010-11 school year.
Faced with $3.3 million in state budget cuts, the school board also voted to approve a list of reductions that include raising class sizes to 30 students per teacher in kindergarten through third grade, cutting administrative costs by $600,000, reducing extracurricular activities by 50 percent and cutting some classified staff.
In addition, negotiations with its teachers and classified staff unions will aim to implement furlough days and reduced health benefits.
State law requires that districts send preliminary notices to employees at risk of being laid off by March 15.
The vote to send out layoff notices came after more than 20 parents, teachers and community members voiced their opposition to teacher layoffs and increased class sizes.
``My heart goes out to all the kids who are going to lose their qualified teachers,'' said parent Judy Wong, adding that the district should consider cutting landscaping costs.
Wong and several others said the budget shortfall could be reduced if parents donated between $100 and $300.
Many who spoke asked the board to consider staff furlough days, a shorter school year and cutting the International Baccalaureate program at district schools.
Board member Cynthia Ruiz said the decisions were difficult but that they could be reversed.
``It's not what we want to do,'' she said. ``We agree with everything you say. The teachers are at the heart of everything our children receive in school.''
According to district officials, an additional $7.5 million in budget reductions for the 2011-12 school year must be identified by June 30.
The district has lost nearly 600 students since the 2007-08 school year and anticipates it will lose an additional 1,600 by the 2014-15 school year.
Walnut Valley Unified has already cut $10.6 million from its budget over the past three years. Today, the district, along with many others across the state, will participate in ``Start the Day for Students,'' which is in opposition to the $17 billion cut from public education in California over the past two years.
``What you're doing is you're making these decisions based on the cuts from the governor,'' said Rosalind Fermond, a teacher at Rowland Unified's Nogales High School. ``Teachers, you're not by yourself. Our district is cutting like it's nothing.''
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