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Parents worry Granite may cut elementary band, orchestra from school day

Published November 1, 2012 12:54 pm

Granite • Elementary orchestra may be cut from school day.
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In a move drawing mixed reaction from parents, the Granite School District has proposed cutting elementary band and orchestra from the school day, instead offering it before or after school.

Music classes taught by music specialists might also be removed from the school day. Instead, the district would ask its regular teachers to include music in their lessons during the day — something they should have been doing all along to be in line with state standards, said Ben Horsley, district spokesman.

"The district is committed to this program, but there are concerns," Horsley said, noting that the music program survived $58 million in district budget cuts in recent years because district leaders value it so deeply.

He said the changes could help to ensure all kids receive general music instruction during the day from their regular teachers, as required by the state. And moving band and orchestra to outside the school day would allow the district to lengthen sessions from 45 minutes to an hour, and it would mean kids no longer have to miss class to attend. Now, students leave class for 45 minutes twice a week for instrumental music, raising concerns that they "are missing valuable instruction," Horsley said.

About 3,200 Granite kids now participate in elementary band and orchestra.

Horsley said the district's 14 music specialists would be offered other jobs within the district if the changes become reality.

Parents and teachers, however, have mixed feelings about the proposal.

Elementary music teacher Teresa Cheney said she doubts kids would get as much general music instruction from their regular teachers as they've been receiving from music specialists.

"I feel like without certified music teachers it's not going to get taught, which is disappointing to me," Cheney said. "I think that it serves as a well rounded education, instead of just teaching kids to take tests."

Others, however, such as Melanie Brock, see pros and cons. Brock, PTA president and librarian at Jackling Elementary, is glad kids might no longer have to miss class to attend band or orchestra. She said it can be difficult for educators to teach lessons when parts of their classes leave for 45 minutes twice a week.

Brock said she's already signed her sixth-grader up for afterschool instrumental music — though the family is still weighing whether it will interfere with her other extracurricular activities and homework. Jackling, like some other Granite schools, actually chose to stop offering instrumental music within the last couple years in favor of other music instruction, so this would represent a return to the program.

"I think it's a great thing to offer before or after school," Brock said, "because then it's not affecting their work time in school."

She said, however, she's not happy about the idea of losing music classes taught by music teachers. She said she worries not all regular teachers will be able to teach music to the same degree.

"Sometimes the music teacher can open up something different [in a student] than the regular teacher," Brock said.

Calene Cook, whose son and daughter both played instruments at Jackling Elementary in the past, wonders if the program might actually attract more students afterschool. But she doesn't like the idea of asking regular teachers to spend more time on music while cutting music classes taught by specialists.

"Right now if we have someone who specializes with it, the kids get so much more than what the regular teachers can offer them," said Cook who also works at Jackling.

Greg Brockman, Brock's brother-in-law, said he disapproves of both possible changes. He worries many students won't be able to make it to afterschool band or orchestra because of other commitments. Brockman's five kids all attended Jackling in the past, and his son played trombone in the orchestra there.

He said it was a chance for his son, who couldn't play sports at that age for medical reasons, to excel.

"It gives kids who aren't going to shine in sports or dance or other things, it gives kids as way they can shine," Brock said.

Horsley said the district would hold schools accountable for making sure regular teachers actually do teach music and would help teachers with that if they need assistance. He said district administrators will make a final decision based on results of surveys distributed to parents earlier this week and other feedback from patrons and employees.


Twitter: @lschencker




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