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Irvine Schools to Cut $4 Million in Programs

In the wake of a failed property tax proposal, local school officials are bracing themselves for deep cuts to programs that have helped the district earn a reputation as Orange County’s best.

Among the possible steps are elimination of elementary school science specialists, which would save $653,000 a year; cutting music lessons in grades 4, 5 and 6 for a $582,000 savings; and laying off a counselor at each high school to trim another $120,000.

All told, Irvine Unified School District board members have to chose $4 million worth of cuts from a $6-million list of possibilities.

Irvine voters this month narrowly rejected a $95-per-parcel tax aimed at preserving programs in art, music and technology that many other school districts gave up long ago. The inability to muster two-thirds support for the tax made budget-cutting inevitable in a school district widely regarded as Orange County’s best.

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“The community made its decision, and its decision was telling the school district, ‘Don’t offer these programs anymore,’ ” said school board President Mike Regele.

To solicit parent input on what should--and shouldn’t--be lost, the school district has posted a list of possible budget cuts on its Web site. In addition, the district is planning two public forums in January.

The tough decisions will likely come the following month. By March 15, the district must must let teachers know if they’ll be let go next year.

With everything from the closure of some small schools to the rollback of class-size reduction possible, the mood among many teachers, parents and administrators is “very dark,” said school trustee Margie Wakeham.

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“To come up with $4 million, you have to have an awful lot of things on that list of things to cut,” she said.


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