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Providence — The school board of the state’s financially troubled capital city has voted to send termination letters to all of its nearly 2,000 teachers after city officials said the move would give them “maximum flexibility” to make budget cuts.

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State law requires school departments to notify teachers by March 1 if they’ll be laid off the following school year.

Providence teachers received notices of potential layoffs before the board met Thursday night and voted 4-3 on sending termination letters. The notices don’t mean the teachers will lose their jobs, but the vote means some of them could at the end of the year. The vote give the city the opportunity to terminate as many teachers as it deems necessary for budgetary reasons, but the city hasn’t indicated how many that could be.

Providence Teachers Union President Steve Smith had said earlier the decision was “beyond insane” and created chaos and anxiety among teachers.

More than 700 teachers packed the Providence Career and Technical Academy gymnasium Thursday to tell school officials their hearts were broken, their trust was violated and their futures as teachers were jeopardized, The Providence Journal newspaper reported.

The financial problems in Providence, the state’s biggest city, have caused enough alarm at the state level that Gov. Lincoln Chafee has instructed two of his top fiscal officers to meet with city officials. A recent audit showed Providence, which has about 175,000 residents, had nearly depleted its rainy-day fund and overspent its budget last year by more than $57 million.

Mayor Angel Taveras last month created a Municipal Finances Review Panel to review the city budget across all departments. The panel will offer recommendations to the mayor in the next two weeks.

Taveras said in a statement that although he was sensitive to the uncertainty and anxiety that many teachers felt when they received the layoff notices, “putting Providence back on solid financial footing will require shared sacrifice across our community.”

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