MONCKS CORNER -- The small group of elementary school parents was subdued and the request modest. But their appearance at the Berkeley County School District board meeting on Tuesday spoke loudly.
The parents represented nearly 300 more who have joined a Facebook group pushing to continue all-day classes exclusively for gifted and talented students in third grade through fifth grade.
In other business, the board passed a $180 million operating budget for 2010-11 that does not increase taxes but entails more than $12 million in cuts.
The district decided to limit separate classes for gifted and talented elementary school students to two subjects, math and English, starting with the upcoming school year.
The Facebook parents said their children learn better in gifted and talented classes. School officials say students, overall, learn better when gifted students take part in regular classes.
Lauren Alexander, the mother of a Westview Elementary School student in Goose Creek, asked the board to show the group data that supported the schools' claim. Board Chairwoman Kathy Schwalbe said Superintendent Anthony Parker would reply by mail.
Despite virtually across-the-board cuts because of revenue shortfalls, the classes weren't reduced as a budget trimmer.
The decision was made for what's in the best interests of all students, and because not every school participated in all-day classes, said Archie Franchini, the district's chief academic officer.
For the schools' budget, about half the savings will be from staff cuts. Supplies and minor school repairs also will be cut.
The district, like others across the state, is struggling with tax revenue shortfalls and state cutbacks in the recession.
Berkeley school leaders said this year's budget is propped up by federal stimulus money and the district faces a crisis for 2011-12 that could lead to consolidating schools, increasing class size and eliminating extracurricular activities such as sports.
The funding loss could mean as much as $25 million in cuts next year, Parker said.
"It is going to have a devastating impact," he said.
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