ALAMEDA -- Chanting and holding signs, hundreds of students walked out of class today to show their anger at the school board's decision to gut funding for high school sports as a way to offset a $4.5 million budget shortfall.

"It's going to affect our entire school, not just the students who play," said Ahmad Shaghasi, a 14-year-old freshman and a cornerback on the Hornets, the Alameda High School football team. "The board is making decisions that will make us suffer. It affects our future."

Trustees initially were considering eliminating all money for high school sports and closing the school district's two swimming pools, which would have saved $465,000.

But during a special meeting that stretched through Tuesday night and into the early hours of this morning, trustees opted instead to cut $265,000 from sports and the pools, which the public also uses.

"We are still strong as a team," said 17-year-old Jason Silsdorf, a 6-foot-11-inch player on the Jets, the Encinal High School basketball team. "But we still want to make a stand. We are saying, 'Keep the teams.'"

When Superintendent Ardella Dailey first suggested no longer paying for high school sports last month as a way to help offset the shortfall, the proposal quickly came under fire from parents, teachers and students, who packed last night's special meeting at Chipman Middle School.


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It prompted trustees to continue earmarking some money toward the program and make other cuts, including laying off the district's public information officer.

The student walk-out today culminated with rally outside the district's administrative offices on Central Avenue.

Dailey also pledged to meet with a student delegation this afternoon.

The initial cost-saving measures from Dailey cover just this fiscal year and total about $2.8 million. She proposes an additional $2.2 million in cuts during the next fiscal year through "restructuring of the K-12 education program," which she said could mean closing or consolidating schools.

Other school districts, including Oakland, are wrestling with similar cuts.

The current Alameda shortfall stems from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's proposal to cut at least $4 billion in overall education spending as a way to help make up the state budget deficit.

Schwarzenegger also wants to spend Proposition 98, the constitutional amendment that guarantees K-12 schools and community colleges annual money from the state's general fund.

In response, dozens of Bay Area parents -- including some from Alameda -- visited Sacramento last week to lobby against the governor's budget proposal.

Reach Peter Hegarty at phegarty@bayareanewsgroup.com or 510-748-1654.