UPDATE: The district announced late Thursday that the option of eliminating kindergarten was taking off the table ahead of tonight's school board meeting.
The Fairfield Unified School District is considering eliminating kindergarten next year to help make up for a $6.5 million shortfall.
The school board will debate the controversial proposal tonight. They're voting on two cost cutting plans. The first involves closing two schools and eliminating sports, the second would eliminate kindergarten.
Teacher and parents are shocked by the kindergarten proposal. Some parents say they're considering moving out of the district if kindergarten is done away with. "Out of all the things they can cut, I didn't think that would ever be an option," said Crystal De La Cruz.
Kindergarten teacher Alicia Quintana says in her mind kindergarten is essential. We visited her class today where students were practicing double digit addition. "It's something they need it's something that helps them develop not only socially, but academically," said Quintana. Quintana fears without kindergarten children will not be prepared to begin the first grade.
But district officials and school board members say they have few choices. School board president Kathleen Marianno says it's heartbreaking to think of eliminating kindergarten but says the board must balance the budget. Marianno says she understands the parents' anger. "But they shouldn't come to us they should go to their legislators. The legislature is not funding schools," Marianno said..
While the district is set to vote on the plan Thursday night, the State Department of Education tells NBC Bay Area the plan may not be legal. Education Programs consultant Mary Murray Autry says while parents aren't required to send their children to kindergarten, districts are mandated to provide it.
While it's unclear if Fairfield's proposed budget solution will stand up in court, many parents are determined to fight it. Leigh Biega has a son who can't wait to start kindergarten in the fall.
"I'm going to make it happen for him somehow, some way," she said.