Alameda Unified Schools' orchestra program here to stay

It was a joyous occasion for parents, students, and staff who packed the Alameda Unified School board meeting on Tuesday.

"To know that the orchestra program is going to stay is every exciting," said Encinal High School senior Paulina Langraica.  

On the chopping block, two of the three music classes offered at Encinal High School. 

"When I came, there was about eight in the jazz band and about 12 in the band. I had it to 90-100 and now we're about 65," said Encinal High School music teacher Armen Phelps.

For the last 33 years, Phelps has taught music in the district. Sadly, this year will be his last. He said he knew he would retire one day, but wasn't planning to go out fighting.

"Music should be here. I fought for so many times. I didn't think I would fight again for it for the last couple of months when I was going to retire. Yes it might be the final straw," said Phelps. 

Before the board meeting, roughly 200 students came together for a quick jam session.  They performed for supporters who oppose the music cuts during the 2017-2018 school year. 

The board cut nearly $3 million from the budget to pay for an increase in staff salaries district-wide. And if there is low enrollment in music classes, cuts need to be an option.

"It's actually very expensive to run class sizes with only a few students and the board last year asked us to run classes as close to maximum," said Alameda Unified School District Spokeswoman Susan Davis.  

However, the passion from the community may have been just enough to change the minds of the board members. After roughly an hour of presentations, comments and debates, the board decided not only to keep all of the classes, but they're also looking at possibly adding one more for next year.

"The best thing advertise this job...a lot of great applicants are going to apply," said Phelps. 

The district said that third class may be a guitar class if enough students show interest. 

The board said this a temporary fix as they continue working to find a long-term solution.