LONG BEACH - For 15-year-old Cabrillo High School freshman Gaetano Gambino, help from a popular college prep program has made a big difference in homework management.

"I definitely don't procrastinate as much as I used to," Gambino said of the Advancement Via Individual Determination program, known as AVID. "And I'm a lot more productive with my time."

However, the program is in danger of being cut as cash-strapped school districts such as the Long Beach Unified School District look for ways to save money.

In its regular meeting Tuesday, the LBUSD board will consider a plan to reduce the high school AVID program by 13 course sections, about half of those now available, and eliminate the program in its K-8 and middle schools for a savings of $470,000.

Student Francisco Pardo reads pros and cons about illegal immigration for a class discussion in teacher Connie Granieri’s freshman AVID class at
Student Francisco Pardo reads pros and cons about illegal immigration for a class discussion in teacher Connie Granieri's freshman AVID class at Cabrillo High School in the Long Beach, Calif., on January 7, 2012. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

The proposal is a revision from last month, when the school board considered virtually eliminating AVID to save $1 million. The board reconsidered the plan after hearing from concerned AVID instructors.

AVID is a national program designed to help students in the academic middle - B, C, and D students - prepare for college. Those with the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard are placed in advanced classes and provided with an elective class that helps with college readiness.

Since 1990, more than 110,000 students have graduated from AVID programs nationwide, according to the California Department of Education.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown reduced funding for AVID by $8.1 million, forcing school districts to pick up the cost if they wish to maintain the program.

That decision has stretched the LBUSD budget thin. While the district's proposed cuts are less severe than the previous plan, the new plan would still reduce access for students.

Tuan Nguyen, AVID coordinator at Cabrillo High School in West Long Beach, said the reduction of 13 course sections would be spread out among the district's high schools. Cabrillo will lose one of its eight course sections, he said, adding that about 250 Cabrillo students are enrolled in AVID.

"I'm happy that the district decided against these major cuts, and I understand that times are tough and the district has no money, but AVID is such an important program," Nguyen said. "It has helped so many of our students."

Nguyen said the college prep program has been especially helpful for minority and disadvantaged students who may be the first in their families to attend college. Nguyen said about 85 percent of Cabrillo's AVID students go on to a four-year college or university.

Statewide, 74 percent of AVID students were accepted to a four-year college in 2011, according to state statistics.

A student takes notes about the pros and cons of illegal immigration for a class discussion in teacher Connie Granieri’s freshman AVID class at
A student takes notes about the pros and cons of illegal immigration for a class discussion in teacher Connie Granieri's freshman AVID class at Cabrillo High School in the Long Beach, Calif., on January 7, 2012. (Jeff Gritchen / Staff Photographer)

Connie Granieri, who teaches the AVID freshman class at Cabrillo High, said the program gives students the confidence and skills to go out into the real world.

"Sometimes just knowing that they have a teacher there to support them makes all the difference," she said.

The board meeting will take place at 5 p.m. Tuesday at 1515 Hughes Way.

kelly.puente@presstelegram.com, 562-714-2181, twitter.com/kellypuentept