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Students at the Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan staged a walkout, protesting staff cuts and the privatization of custodians being considered by the school district to help plug a budget gap.

Superintendent Jan Furman said layoffs of four teaching positions and the outsourcing of 14 custodial staff positions are being considered to cut costs in the $50 million budget. But neither would be necessary if the bargaining units representing teachers, supervisors and administrators come to agreements with the Board of Education, she said. The district lost all its state aid — $1.9 million.

The 30 students, mostly seniors, chanted "Save Our Staff" and held up cardboard signs that read, "Save the Custodians" and "Students for Northern Valley Faculty" in front of the school as passing cars honked.

"I understand the purpose is to cut the budget, but the janitors have worked with us for so long and none of them should be fired because they keep the school spotless," said Maya Nisnevitch, 17, of Old Tappan.

Aaron Baek, 18, of Northvale, said the students also wanted to support the teachers who are working under an expired contract.

Jillian Clarke, an 18-year-old from Old Tappan who initiated the protest through text messages to seniors, said she was also worried about the effects the proposed cuts would have on students in the lower grades, including her younger brother.

"We need them to have the same opportunities we had at our school," she said.

Principal Fred Hessler said the students will not be disciplined for missing class. They returned to class an hour after the 11:30 a.m. walkout.

"They have a right to express their opinion," he said.