Students head back to class as schools face cuts

August 20, 2012 6:46:49 PM PDT
For scores of schools across the Bay Area, Monday was the first day back following summer vacation. This new school year begins with budget concerns, but for one school in San Jose, those worries have been lightened a bit by a generous gift.

About 900 students at Shirakawa Elementary School in San Jose are saying goodbye to summer vacation and hello to a new school year.

"Kind of nervous and kind of excited I guess," 8th grader Kyra Jones said.

That about sums up the sentiments for teachers and administrators as well. Some of the excitement at Shirakawa stems from more than $1 million in new computers.

The Wyse Dell Foundation delivered five cloud computing desktops to each classroom and a laptop to every teacher. With 24 to 32 students per class, kids will share the equipment.

"You have to set up the computers, the reading program and math program for their levels, so that's really a big step making sure every student is signed in with their ability level," first grade teacher Maria Volpe said.

It's the level of state funding though, which has districts across California a little nervous. If voters in November don't pass Proposition 30, the governor's tax increases, schools could lose an estimated $480 in funding per student.

For San Jose's Franklin McKinley School District that could mean a cut of $5 million, which would likely result in furlough days -- in essence, a shorter school year. The state has authorized as few as 160 learning days.

"We're all worried about, our students especially, after losing summer school last several years, also now losing time in school," Superintendent John Porter, Ph.D., said.

Districts are not only pushing a yes vote on Prop 30, but they are also asking parents to make a difference by volunteering.

"It's paramount; having parent involvement in the school is the most important thing," Shirakawa Elementary Principal Cesar Torrico said. "You see all the high performing schools will have that increased parent involvement parents really drive the school."

This school year, first day jitters may peak again on election night.


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