The same City Heights school that thought it could lose nearly all of its teachers three years ago is now threatened with losing nearly all of them again.

Fay Elementary, which used to be known as Jackson Elementary at another site, stood to lose 24 out of its 26 teachers when layoffs were threatened three years ago. The Union-Tribune wrote about its plight. It looked like it was going to be hit harder than many other schools because like many disadvantaged schools, it had a newer, younger staff — and the newest teachers are cut first.

Most of the teacher layoffs ended up being canceled. None of the Jackson teachers lost their jobs. But now Fay has an uncomfortable case of déjà vu.

Out of the 27 regular teachers at the school, 25 will get pink slips and another is a temporary teacher who had no guarantee of keeping his job anyway. That means only one teacher is slated to stay at the site. Most of them are the exact same teachers who were faced with losing their jobs last time.

The big numbers were a big surprise. As of Friday, Principal Eileen Moreno had handed out eight pink slips to warn teachers that they could be laid off. But after San Diego Unified ramped up the number of layoff warnings from just shy of 1,100 to more than 1,300, their numbers grew. The cuts are part of a plan to close an estimated $120 million deficit.

Moreno got a text message from a teacher this morning while she was in a special education training and didn’t believe it. “I said, ‘What? No. That’s wrong. Don’t worry about it,’” she remembered. But she didn’t want to take any chances. She left the training right away to check.

The school can only hope the déjà vu continues to the end. Just as they were three years ago, the pink slips are not final. They are just a warning telling teachers that they could be laid off. And even if the layoffs do happen, Fay will still be staffed. Teachers from other schools will make up a new, smaller staff. Moreno is skeptical that the pink slips will all result in layoffs.

But she fears having to start over with a new staff. Fay is already faced with tough odds. Almost all of its students come from families poor enough to get a free or reduced price lunch. The majority are still learning English. Its test scores have slowly grown as teachers collaborate and share ideas.

Schools in poorer neighborhoods tend to be hit harder by layoffs because they often have newer, less experienced teachers. Why? Read our earlier article about teacher turnover in San Diego Unified.

Please share your stories with me about how layoffs and other budget cuts will impact your school. You can send me an email or post your thoughts directly to the blog.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter:

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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