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SYRACUSE -- As teacher and program cuts loom in the Davis School District, students walked out at Syracuse High School in protest. They weren't sure what they would accomplish, but they wanted to do something to express their anger and get the community involved.
The district faces a $31 million shortfall next year, plus an influx of 950 students. The district plans to cut 90 teachers who were on one-year contracts.
Holding signs, cheering and waving at passing vehicles, students said they wanted their voices heard.
District officials say the cuts are necessary due to a looming budget shortfall, and that the majority of the positions are teachers who were already planning to leave and just won't be replaced. They say while they understand the students' anger, they do not approve of their actions.
"Some students are hanging out of cars, and police are concerned about safety and seat belt laws," said Chris Williams, spokesman for Davis School District.
The students fear the classroom consequences of the impending elimination of seven teachers at their school. Kristen Stringham, a junior at Syracuse High School, says they planned the rally through forwarded text messages.
"Students are really upset about some of these teachers being let go, some of their contracts not being renewed," says Stringham.
District community relations director Chris Williams says three of those teachers are on one-year contracts and three others are moving.
"We've never laid off anyone in the Davis School District before," says Williams. "But when we're talking about a $61 million cut over two years, it gets very difficult."
"I hope that the administration that was responsible for cutting these classes will see that we do care," said junior Kristen Stringham.
About 86 percent of district costs are tied to personnel. The district will also cut administration costs more than $5 million and increase class sizes by one student.
The students at Syracuse High are petitioning to save automotive and arts programs at their school.
"I hope that the administration that was responsible for cutting these classes will see that we do care," Stringham says. "We want our classes back."
By noon, hundreds of students were on the sidewalk west of the school. Police were called in to keep them off the busy section of 2200 West.
"We're getting support from cars passing by," says Stringham. "We're all really excited, and we hope it will make a difference and save some of the teachers and the programs."
- Cutting central office administrators and staff and support service personnel for a savings of $5.7 million
- Increasing class sizes by one student
- Not renewing one-year-only hires. Those positions include 90 certified employees from full-time to one class period a day
- Reducing school counselor positions by 15
- Eliminating nine secondary and 15 elementary school administrative intern positions
- Reducing high school secretary positions by one per school
- Cutting 11.5 reading teacher positions
- Limiting the number of refrigerated vending machines in schools
- Limiting employee travel
- Decreasing department supply budgets by 5 percent
The school board still weighs other cuts and is surveying people about a possible tax increase: "If they're willing to pay taxes, how much of an increase they're willing to shoulder," says Williams.
Students were also angry over a planned expansion of the athletic facilities at Davis High School, saying that money would be better spent on more programs and teachers. Williams said Friday the expansion has not been put on hold.
The board must pass a budget in June and will schedule a public hearing soon. A similar hearing a year ago did not draw a crowd. The students hope it will this year.
"It was the general consensus that doing something that would get people's attention, not just the school's, but the community," Stringham says. "Getting the community involved will really help, I think."
Williams said after the walk-out, most of the students returned to class.