The School Board reluctantly voted tonight to increase class sizes to 28 students in kindergarten through third grade, and to 30 for ninth-grade English and math classes for the 2010-11 school year.
This will result in 97 fewer elementary school teachers for a savings of $4 million; increasing the high school classes will save another $1 million. The San Ramon Valley Unified School District is facing a $30 million deficit.
In August the board approved K-3 and the high school math and English classes to go from 20 to 22 students for the school year 2009-10, for a savings of $700,000.
"We've already exercised 22:1, and we recommend the board look at 28:1 in K-3 and 30:1 at the high school level," said Assistant Superintendent Christine Williams. "Looking at this now doesn't mean we can't pull back later on. This would be the cautious route to take."
She noted that teachers who face being laid off must be notified by March 15.
"I don't think we have a choice," said Trustee Paul Gardner. "We have to keep this district financially solvent. Keep in mind the cuts the state is doing. We want to have as much control as we can. Our resources are getting fewer and fewer."
Trustee Bill Clarkson emphasized that the school board did not cut the budget, the State of California cut the budget.
"It's a bitter, bitter pill to swallow," he said about increasing class sizes.
"I'm reluctantly supporting this resolution," said Trustee Greg Marvel. "I don't want to see bright young teachers be told they won't have jobs."
He pointed out that although this School District is trying to educate students for the 21st century, in fact it pays less for education today than the state of New York paid in 1978, some 30 years ago.
"And there is no guarantee that the cut isn't going to be even bigger," he said. "Their well is dry."
"I hope with the concessions we've asked the union for, it will trigger a series of actions," he added. "We have to disrupt the lives of hundreds of teachers. If we don't do it, the state will appoint someone who will."
Trustee Ken Mintz pointed out that when he was on the school board in 1996, it approved the class size reduction to 20.
"It's atrocious that we have to take this step 14 years later," he said. "We're heading in absolutely the opposite direction. My hope is if this action has to go forward, it is short-lived."
Board President Rachel Hurd simply said, "Ditto" to the others' comments and declared it was a "reluctant unanimous vote."
No one in the audience spoke to the issue. District spokesman Terry Koehne said before the meeting that everyone seemed to understand it was a necessary step.
Williams said in her report that she hopes much of the staff reduction will be reached through teacher retirements and the release of temporary teachers.