District votes to further study music class
The Park City School District fifth-grade instrumental music program is still alive after Heavy public support swayed School Board members to further study its future.
A committee formed to find money-saving ideas to balance the budget, recommended that the fifth-grade instrumental program be discontinued, with a before-or after school program taking its place. The after-school program was to be partially funded by parents. The annual savings to the district was estimated at $96,000.
At both a budget committee public forum on Feb. 28, and the board meeting on March 20, music teachers, parents and community members spoke in favor of keeping the school-funded instrumental classes intact.
. "If you run a class after school, you will conflict with dance, soccer and all sorts of activities," Dr. Fredrick Cook said as he addressed the board, stressing Park City’s need for the current instrumental program He discussed studies finding that students learning music become better pupils in all facets of education.
One school board suggestion was to add third-and fourth-grade after-school programs to the recommended fifth-grade after school program.
"Band instruments are not in proportion with body sizes of kids," Morgan, a Jeremy Ranch Elementary School music teacher said of any students below the fifth grade. But she said the fifth-grade was a good starting point. "There is a disadvantage of not starting in the fifth-grade. They will not have the experience on that instrument," she said. Morgan wondered how the after school teachers would be paid.
Aside from parent funding, the board discussed possible help from the community and the Parent Teachers’ Association.
Lynn Eckels, who has two kids in the Park City School District, supports continuing the during-school instrumental classes. "Everyone in my family plays an instrument," she said. "I was horrified when I heard of the proposed changes." Her son, James is in fourth-grade at Jeremy Ranch, and she said she would do whatever is necessary to get him after-school training if necessary, but she had concern for long term effects of ending the school classes… "Some kids will never try out for the after-school programs. I’m concerned most about the kids whose parents can’t afford it."
Eckels referred to the Park City Jazz Ensemble as one of the best school ensembles in the country. "They were just in a Region 10 band competition. They scored a perfect 10. Perfect scores are always the norm for them," she said, worrying about the future of the ensemble and the music program if musicians don’t begin playing at an early age.
Before the vote, board member Vern Christensen made a motion that the board give the matter further consideration. He cited all of the support for the program, and said the majority of e-mails he has received were in support of keeping the instrumental program intact. He said that once a decision is made, it would be hard to reverse in following years, especially with staffing.
Charles Cunningham, a board member, was concerned the board didn’t know enough about the music to make an informed decision. After discussion, the board decided to put the item on hold and form a committee to study it further.
Christensen later said, "We need to step back and see where we want to go with that, with parents, administration and teachers. Should we spend more, spend less? Let’s take a look at that. Making a change now becomes a paradigm shift."
"I have watched so many kids who didn’t care about school or do well in school, suddenly turn around with music," Eckels said. "It can be the same experience as being on a sports team. You can’t have a good band without everyone pulling together."
What happens with the fifth-grade instrumental program will not likely be decided before teachers are budgeted for the following year.
"I feel we’re taking a major step backwards if they do this," Eckels said.
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