ALAMEDA (KCBS) – Like so many other school districts in California, students in Alameda’s public school system returned to class recently under a looming budget deficit.

Local education officials entertained a number of scenarios to ease the financial crunch, without immediately eliminating any proposal, including closing some schools.

KCBS Margie Shafer Reporting:

Such draconian proposals were anything but surprising, given the gap in funding.

“Our general fund budget was about $55 million and we’re looking at a $17 million shortfall,” warned Alameda Board of Education president Ron Mooney. “So that’s pretty darn severe.”

Proponents promised to pursue a parcel tax ballot measure in March 2011, after a recent effort failed by a small margin at the ballot box.

“The biggest thing that they complained about was that residential had one rate of tax and the businesses had a different rate,” Mooney explained of voters’ rationale. “And what we’re contemplating right now is that the rates would be the same.”

The groundwork, though, was already being laid for some sort of consolidation of Alameda’s schools.

“Completely eliminate all middle schools. Completely. So you would go from elementary school up through sixth grade and you would go directly into high school,” recommended parent Steve Moller, whose two sons were enrolled in Alameda public schools

School officials also floated the idea of merging the community’s two high schools into one.

“If we need to go to one high school, Berkeley has one high school for about the same number of kids,” Mooney pointed out. “I think, you know, we can do it.”

Parent Guy Bloom questioned the rational behind a proposal to close some elementary schools.

“I fear that with these mega elementary schools that are being proposed, it’s really going to take a lot of the allure away from what makes Alameda so special.”

He brought additional perspective to the table, as a realtor.

“We’ve got a lot of people who come to open homes here from Oakland saying hey, tell me more about the schools here,” he revealed.

The School Board scheduled a mid-December vote on the next round of belt tightening.

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