High school, middle school and elementary students make their way to their respective schools for the first day of school on Monday, August 20, 2012.

High school, middle school and elementary students make their way to their respective schools for the first day of school on Monday, August 20, 2012. (Roger Wilson/Staff photographer / December 28, 2012)

Glendale Unified administrators are awaiting word from 350 employees who qualify for early retirement as part of an effort to reduce the number of lay-offs next year, official said this week.

The popularity of the early retirement program will be crucial in determining how many teachers are laid off since seniority plays a central role in who get does and doesn’t get a pink slip.

As Glendale Unified awaits the outcome of the “fiscal cliff” talks in Washington, D.C., and the California state budget that Gov. Jerry Brown could release as early as mid-January, they are trying to avoid the worst case scenario that could hit this spring.

Up to 125 teachers could ultimately be laid off by fall 2013, which means average class sizes would also grow.

The employees eligible for early retirement must be 55 or older and have worked for the district for five or more years.

“We can’t tell who’s going to take it yet because we don’t know,” said Maria Gandera, assistant superintendent of human resources.

Many employees were mulling over the idea while on winter break, she added.

Those who choose to retire early would need to accept the district’s offer by Feb. 1.

The city of Glendale was able to limit the number of layoffs months ago by offering a similar early retirement option as officials struggled to cut millions of dollars in spending.

Should Glendale Unified lay off up to 80 elementary teachers, class sizes in kindergarten through third grade could potentially increase from 24 students to 30 per teacher.

Up to 25 secondary teachers could also lose their jobs, which would add an average of two students to classes in grades 6 through 12.

-- Kelly Corrigan, Times Community News

Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan