Students left out of band
According to his mother Carol Stevenson, fifth-grader Colby Stevenson came home after the first day of school this year at Trailside Elementary excited and eager about the coming year. After his second day of school last week, Colby’s enthusiasm for school had vanished. His sudden disappointment was caused by the news that his chance to learn how to play an instrument this year would not come to be. Colby had been looking forward to playing the clarinet and then moving up to the saxophone, his mother explained.
Colby and nine other Trailside Elementary fifth-graders aren’t able to participate in band this year because of complications with scheduling and uneven student numbers.
In the Park City School District (PCSD), students are first given the opportunity to learn to play an instrument when they enter the fifth grade, explained Janet Myshrall, parent of a fifth-grader who was excluded from band this year. Myshrall explained that she and her husband stopped sending their daughter to piano lessons under the impression that she was going to participate in the fifth-grade band this year. According to Myshrall, fifth-grade band was, "something they were all really looking forward to." Myshrall said that everybody involved underestimated how devastated these kids are.
On the first day of fifth grade, students at Trailside were sent home with a handout explaining that the students could pick between taking band, strings, or choir and were asked to number their preferences, one through three.
When the requests were tabulated, more students wanted to take band than the class had room for, explained Trailside principal Pat Flynn. Thirty-seven students signed up for band but, according to Flynn, the "magic number" that they capped the class at is 27. Flynn said that he didn’t know who any of the students were and 10 students were selected at random to be placed in choir. Myshrall pointed out that some of the kids placed in choir listed it as their last choice.
At Trailside, students have one, 45-minute elective activity period each school day. Flynn explained that in previous years Trailside had two 45-minute activity periods each day for classes such as music, library, and PE. The school considered pushing all music classes to after-school, but ultimately decided against it explained Flynn. Instead, Trailside merged the two activity periods into one, said Flynn.
These changes are part of a district-wide move at the elementary schools to focus more attention on core subjects, leaving less time for liberal arts, explained Myshrall. This schedule change has created a situation where students alternate between taking a band class one day, and going to either physical education or library the other. Flynn explained that if they let everyone take band who wanted to take band, it would create physical education and library classes with 37 fifth-graders which, in Flynn’s opinion, "just won’t work."
According to Flynn, the students will still have the chance to take beginning band at Ecker Hill International Middle School (EHIMS) next year with other students who don’t have any musical background. But Myshrall says that she thinks that students who start band at EHIMS with no previous experience ultimately end up dropping out because they start too far behind.
Stevenson said that she thinks that it’s a matter of fairness and inclusion. "All kids should have a choice," she explained. Stevenson explained that her only option right now is to pay for private music lessons for her son, but she thinks they’re too expensive.
According to Myshrall, the other elementary schools in Park City have made similar reductions in the class time dedicated to liberal arts education, but the changes were agreed upon last spring, leaving the summer to work out any problems.
Myshrall explained that she has a high respect for the school district, its teachers, and the superintendent, and she thinks they should be able to find a workable solution.
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