FREMONT — Even though the school district must slash millions more than first anticipated from next year's budget, trustees hope to save counselors previously approved to be laid off and to lessen cuts to the adult school.

The school board must cut $24.6 million to $27.6 million to balance next year's budget of $203.5 million. Although trustees have indicated areas of the budget they'd like spared, no decision is final until the board votes on actual budget reductions at its next meeting on Feb. 27.

Cuts still being considered could lead to:

  • An increase in the student-to-teacher ratio from 20-to-1 to 30-to-1 for students in kindergarten through third grade. Such a move would lead to 130 fewer teachers.

  • Ninth-grade math and English classes jumping from the current 20-to-1 student-to-teacher ratio to 28-to-1. This could lead to actual class sizes of 35 students.

  • Districtwide pay cuts of 4 percent and a 50 percent reduction in stipends to athletic directors, coaches and department chairs.

  • Districtwide work-year reduction of 5.5 percent — or five fewer school days for students.

  • Elimination of all elementary school prep teachers.

    During Wednesday's school board meeting, community members spoke out in support of adult school and counseling programs.

    More than a dozen current and former adult school students told the board they were immigrants who needed to improve their English to get better jobs or to be able to communicate with their children's teachers and help with homework. Others saw the school as a second chance after dropping out of high school years ago.

    The Fremont Adult School has served more than 7,000 students this school year. By this time last year, before the budget cuts, it had served almost twice that number, said Principal Steve Giudici.

    If the school loses another $2 million this fall, its budget will have been axed by more than half in two years, he said.

    Community members this week also showed up to support saving counselors, calling them "lifelines" for students dealing with family crises or those in need of college guidance.

    Last year, the school board used one-time money to postpone having to lay off six additional counselors. This week, trustees said they hoped to again find money to keep these employees beyond this school year.

    Some of the proposed cuts, such as salary and work-year reductions, still need to be negotiated with the unions.

    Fremont resident Linda Dewlaney urged union and school board members to make concessions, saying that the board should agree to give up its 1 percent reserve, valued at about $2.6 million, if all employee groups agree to a 4 percent pay cut — a move that would save $6.8 million districtwide.

    "I cannot believe the unions would not support (a salary reduction). My friends at NUMMI would have appreciated this option of a pay cut," she said, referring to the slated April 1 closure of the Fremont auto plant that currently employs more people than any other business in the city.

    Contact Linh Tat at 510-353-7010. Follow her at Twitter.com/Linh_Tat.