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The arts still offered in local schools, but more so in some

April 16, 2012
By Evan Bevins - The Marietta Times (ebevins@mariettatimes.com) , The Marietta Times

Falling outside the core standards schools have to meet, art and music classes can sometimes be on the chopping block when budgets must be cut.

That's been the case in some Washington County school districts in recent years, but for now, districts are maintaining the programs they have and occasionally looking at ways to increase what they offer.

"We have pared things down about as far as we can go without eliminating them," said Belpre City Schools Superintendent Tony Dunn.

The district has one art teacher for its elementary school and one for the high school. One music teacher, Bill Van Pelt, handles the fifth- and sixth-grade and high school instrumental programs while also directing the high school chorus. There is no general music class for kindergarten through fourth-graders.

Now, the district is looking at bringing back one of the most visible and public aspects of its arts program.

"Our hope is to increase our ... band program and in the very near future have a marching band back on campus," Dunn said.

Fact Box

Benefits of arts education

Builds a school climate of high expectation, discipline and academic rigor that attracts businesses relocating to your community.

Strengthens student problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, adding to overall academic achievement and school success.

Helps students develop a sense of craftsmanship, quality task performance and goal-setting - skills needed to succeed in the classroom and beyond.

Can help troubled youth, providing an alternative to destructive behavior and another way for students to approach learning

Provides another opportunity for parental, community and business involvement with schools, including arts and humanities organizations.

Helps all students develop more appreciation and understanding of the world around them.

Helps students develop a positive work ethic and pride in a job well done.

Source: www.americansforthearts.org

In 2008, citing declining participation, the board voted to eliminate the marching band program, which also provided some cost savings. Dunn said the number of participants in the instrumental music program has been increasing lately.

"We would not be starting a marching band from scratch," he said. "We still have uniforms and instruments that were purchased in the past."

Still, Dunn anticipates a drive to get community members to donate instruments they no longer use to help build the program back up.

As a result of funding cuts, the Frontier Local district does not offer dedicated art and music classes at the elementary level. However, teachers work them in to the school day as best they can, said New Matamoras Elementary Principal Bill Wotring.

"It is not like having a full-fledged music or art program, but elementary children certainly must have some art and music," he said.

Reinstating such classes was one proposal for revenue from a 0.75 percent earned income tax levy rejected by voters in November.

Thanks to reductions in the last five years, the Warren Local school district is just one-and-a-half positions above the state minimum for education specialist positions, which include music, art and physical education teachers. But that doesn't mean the district considers such classes unimportant, Superintendent Tom Gibbs said.

"We're close to minimum at regular education positions as well," he said. "The arts are an important part of our educational programming, and it's something that we truly value."

The Marietta City and Fort Frye Local school boards have teachers retiring from art and music positions at the end of this year, but they do not plan to make any cuts to the programs.

"I think the arts are alive and well in Marietta City Schools," Superintendent Harry Fleming said, noting the district's offerings today are comparable to what was available eight years ago when he was serving as Marietta's director of instruction.

Fort Frye interim Superintendent Dora Jean Bumgarner said the district's elementary and high school instrumental teacher is retiring and that job will be combined with the band director's post, which had previously been an outside position, for the upcoming school year. She said the district has made no cuts to the arts in recent years but pointed out they are currently facing some financial struggles.

The addition of a ninth period to the Waterford High School day next year will present the opportunity for additional art-related electives, said Wolf Creek Local Superintendent Bob Caldwell. While there have been some scheduling challenges with the music programs, students continue to demonstrate interest in art classes, he said.

There are no plans to make any cuts to art programs at this time, Caldwell said.

Caldwell and other superintendents said art and music are an important part of a well-rounded education, noting studies show they can benefit students in other areas of learning as well.

"The world is not just about science, math, reading, even though those take the front seat, understandably," Caldwell said.

Area schools get some help in providing music and art-related programs from Artsbridge Inc., the agency that supports arts in the community and in schools. Artsbridge brings three national tour groups a year to schools in Washington and Morgan counties and Wood County, W.Va. They also have a catalog of local artists that schools can bring in to classrooms.

Artsbridge executive director John Hoffman said there has been a decline in use of the catalog artists because there is a fee associated with it. However, he is confident local schools value the arts.

"If they had more money, they would have more art teachers and more music teachers and more programs," he said.

 
 
 

 

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