School district prepares for budget shortfall with list of potential cuts

The state’s soaring deficit projection has drawn concern from Redwood City School District officials, who are looking for ways to retain about three-dozen teachers who face layoffs.

The district board met Wednesday to pore over a new list of recommended cuts meant to lessen the effects of a projected loss of $6 million in state funding.

The district is considering axing some teachers and offering early retirement incentives to others, although discussions are preliminary and no decisions will be made until Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger releases his revised budget in May, according to District Superintendent Jan Christensen.

The school district handed out about 35 layoff notices to teachers in March, she said.

An advisory committee is also recommending combining classes to save on teachers, slashing some administrative staff positions and cutting one nurse, two custodians and an occupational therapist, among other measures.

“We’re looking at what’s viable and what’s not, and we’ll continue having board meetings and discussions on this,” Christensen said.

The recommendations come just days after Schwarzenegger warned of a $20 billion state budget shortfall, doubling his previous prediction. That could mean public schools could lose well more than the $4 billion touted in earlier predictions.

The advisory committee is made up of district staff and community members, and its preliminary list is a way for the district to be prepared for an inevitable shortfall, whatever it might be, said Shelly Masur, president of the district’s board.

“We felt that in order to be fiscally responsible, we would need to have an idea what our state budget’s going to look like,” Masur said. “It’s certainly not looking better at the state level.”

Next week, the board will gather and deliver more than 15,000 letters from district parents and community members to Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, for consideration in Sacramento.

The letter drive has played a dual role for the district, Christensen said. She said it not only will inform the Legislature about the impact of budget cuts, but has also provided the district’s students a lesson in civics.

“These kids are participating in democracy,” she said.

maldax@examiner.com

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