Alameda school district leaders agreed to increased class sizes and having Encinal High School serve seventh through 12th graders as the ways to save money if Island voters reject a parcel tax next year.
Along with reconfiguring Encinal, trustees also decided Tuesday that Wood Middle School will close if the proposed tax fails to secure the two-thirds vote needed to pass.
The first phase of belt-tightening, which could begin next fall, includes turning all elementary schools into campuses that serve kindergartners through sixth graders and having Lincoln Middle School open as a seventh- through eighth-grade campus.
Even deeper cuts will take place over 2012-13 under the plan, which district officials say will offset an ongoing budget shortfall.
"We would not be looking at this level of cuts within the district if we did not have to," Superintendent Kirsten Vital said.
Trish Spencer was the only trustee to reject the two-part plan, saying she thought it placed a burden on students from the city's poorer West End, while sparing those who live in more affluent areas.
The plan also hit older kids hard too, Spencer said.
"We are continuing to decrease the options for students in middle and high schools, rather than taking a look at closing smaller elementary schools," she said.
But other trustees said the grim economic forecast left them little choice, noting that the plan was crafted with input from parents, teachers and others.
"We have to go forward with some sort of plan," said Trustee Margie Sherratt, who was attending her first board meeting following her November election.
Among the second phase of cuts that trustees approved Tuesday is closing Otis, Washington and Franklin elementary schools.
"This is the best I think staff could do (under the circumstances)," Vital said. "I think they've done some heavy lifting to get to these recommendations."
The first phase of cuts will save the district about $2.4 million. The second phase will save $915,000.
Last month trustees voted to put the parcel tax on the March 8 ballot. If passed, it would start July 1 and generate $12 million annually over seven years.
Commercial and residential property owners would pay 32 cents per building square foot under the new tax, with a cap, or maximum amount, of $7,999.
Owners of parcels without buildings would pay $299.
Supporters say the tax also will help maintain art, music and other programs. But critics have questioned whether the tax will be uniformly applied, which some business property owners say is essential for them to support it.
About 14 percent of the money from the new tax would go toward maintaining smaller class sizes -- which parents have said is a priority -- while about 8 percent would go toward maintaining neighborhood schools.
About 4 percent of the money would go toward high school sports and up to 16 percent for programs to close the "achievement gap" in test scores between Latino and African-American students and whites and Asians.
The new tax would replace the district's two current parcel taxes, which, when combined, mean that homeowners now pay $309 annually and business property owners pay 15 cents per square foot of space.
If the new measure fails, the two current taxes will sunset in 2012.
According to district officials, the owner of a median 1,600 square foot home in Alameda would pay $512 annually under the proposed tax.
District officials also said 72 percent of homeowners would pay less than the $659 they would have under Measure E, the parcel tax to benefit schools that Island voters rejected in June.
The cuts approved Tuesday and the move to generate cash through a new parcel tax come on top of Alameda school district leaders cutting $11 million from the budget due to the overall economic slump and less funding from Sacramento.
While officials say a new parcel tax would prevent the cuts approved Tuesday, the district's Chief Business Officer Robert Shemwell warned trustees that more belt-tightening may be necessary if the economy does not pick up, including layoffs.