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Pickerington parents concerned about cutting of the arts
Although music is often thought of as an extra, Pickerington parent Linda Huff says the federal government calls it a core subject.
Without it, she says, students miss out on an important learning experience.
“Students who don’t have the opportunities that our Pickerington students have had at the elementary levels miss out on important social opportunities to apply what they’ve learned from different subjects to music and vice versa,” she said at the district’s Nov. 16 school board meeting.
Since the failure of the Nov. 2 operating levy, Pickerington Schools has begun to examine what areas of it curriculum will be cut.
In addition to transportation and other extra curricular activities, arts has taken center stage as parents have pleaded for it to remain at the elementary level.
At a meeting held earlier this month at Heritage Elementary School, many parents echoed Huff’s concerns.
Throughout the nearly two-hour meeting, pleas from parents to save music, art and physical education courses for elementary students, as well as limit pay-to-participate fee increases, were cheered by the crowd.
“Our school has the most fantastic art teacher,” said Amanda Tonjes, Fairfield Elementary PTO President. “The children learn more about art history and technique than the cut and paste we did when we were children. The idea that that will be gone breaks my heart.”
Rebecca White’s children come home excited to tell her all about what was made in art or done in physical education.
“Art, music and physical education are important,” White said. “Humans do not have just one IQ. Through the development of multiple intelligences and natural expression, children develop their true self. The elimination of these classes are huge. The cuts that have been made are daunting, but I believe cutting the arts is a grave mistake.”
During the board meeting, President Lee Gray relaxed the traditional rules of order to allow some parents to speak openly during board discussions.
“Everyone is feeling the situation we are in,” Gray said. “We are in crisis mode. I don’t believe everyone understands how much we are going to have to take out of this budget.”
Superintendent Karen Mantia said she has one objective.
“I’m going to teach the kids somehow someway in the classroom,” she said. “We can’t do it all. We will have to come to some realistic terms about what we have to get rid of. By law, we have to balance the budget. We cannot run in a deficit. Our taxpayers have spoken. The crisis we face is a huge financial hole that we are going to have to crawl out of.”
The board discussed changes to transportation, as well as a possible change to fully funded pay-to-play for extra-curricular activities.
While the board agenda included voting to make the changes to the extra-curriculars, no decisions were made as the board agreed that more specifics with cost analysis needed to be included in that decision.
The Nov. 2 levy would have generated $7.586 million in new annual revenue and cost a homeowner an additional $209.53 annually per $100,000 home. Even if an operating levy is placed on the ballot and passed in 2011, significant cuts will have to be made.
Board member Lisa Reade said that athletic changes are $1.4 million of the budget, but that is not enough.
“That’s 10 percent of our budget,” she said. “There’s 90 percent that we haven’t even talked about. I hate to tell you, it ain’t going to come from cutting buses."
The next school board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Dec. 13 at Heritage Elementary School, 100 N. East St.
Changes under consideration
Some of the changes that the Pickerington Board of Education is considering to balance the budget next school year include:
• Eliminating as many as 43 teachers and other licensed professionals; as many as 42 secretaries, aides and other support workers; and as many as four administrators.
• Making transportation changes including options to change transportation eligibility, bus routes and bus stop locations as well as special needs transportation.
• Eliminating elementary school art, music and physical education.
• Instituting a fully funded pay-to-play program for athletics and clubs. Students currently pay about a third of the actvity cost with the amount per activity yet to be determined.
• Adjusting course offerings as needed while maintaining state minimum standards.
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