In the face of the state budget crisis, the Hesperia Unified School District is stretching its dollars in the coming year in part by stretching three of its assistant principals.

The school board voted unanimously Monday night on a package of cuts that would save the district $1.6 million in the coming school year. Included in that is a change to have six elementary schools share three assistant principals, for a savings of $325,000.

Previously, 12 assistant principals were going to lose their positions in the new school year. By saving nine of their jobs on Monday, the school board in effect stopped nine current teachers from being bumped from their jobs and onto the unemployment line.

"In theory, if we had said they would no longer be APs, nine of them would have gone back into the classroom," Assistant Superintendent of Business Services David McLaughlin said on Tuesday. "By not laying them off, it will allow nine of those [laid off teachers] to come back."

The remaining three assistant principal positions would be filled should federal stimulus funds become available to the district.

"By all means, find the money to bring back the other three," board vice-president Lee Rogers said Monday.

California is facing an estimated $15.4 billion deficit. That's a conservative number, based on voters approving several budget-related propositions on Monday. If they vote them down, the deficit could grow to $21.3 billion, according to state officials. Average Daily Attendance payments from the state make up 73 percent of the HUSD's general operating fund.

The school board has previously approved laying off 27 non-teacher staff, 183 teachers and 17 principals and district office managers at the end of the current school year. (Twelve of those principals are the 12 assistant principals whom the board voted to retain at Monday's meeting.)

Assistant principals in the HUSD oversee discipline, testing and other administrative tasks at the elementary school level. Which schools will share the principals will be decided this summer, based on expected enrollment at each site, according to Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services Jovy Yankaskas.

It wasn't all good news at Monday night's meeting: Five additional employees will be losing their jobs at the end of this school year, including a district office receptionist, two educational services secretaries, an educational services coordinator and the principal of Oxford Academy.

The next meeting of the HUSD school board will be held on June 8, 2009, at 6 p.m. in the HUSD Educational Support Center Annex, 15576 Main Street.

Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.