Planned changes to the elementary school music program in the South Cariboo have some parents concerned that band will be out of reach for many students.
The new program will see interested Grade 6 and 7 band students from local elementary schools taking part in a coordinated band class twice a week at Peter Skene Ogden Secondary, where they will be bussed after school. Previously, music classes – where the Grade 6 and 7 students had the opportunity to choose an instrument to learn – were held within each elementary school during regular instructional hours.
While School District 27 superintendent Chris van der Mark describes the change as an “enhancement,” several parents have expressed concern about the new format.
One Mile 108 Elementary parent, who asked that her name not be used, told the Free Press she has heard from several parents that holding band class outside of school hours will “make it out of reach for so many kids.”
“I think it could be an enhancement if they still offered a music program in the school,” she said. “But for a lot of kids, they will no longer have that opportunity. How will we get music to kids?”
Van der Mark acknowledged that for some families, after-school band class “will be a challenge,” but that all elementary school classrooms should have some form of music as part of the regular curriculum.
“We are simply adding something more formalized and structured for those who want to pursue it,” he said, noting that the current format of having students leave class during instructional time for music was “quite disruptive.”
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Jasmine Kreschuk, PSO’s music director who will be heading up the band program, said there are several benefits to having the program centralized within the community. Access to better instruments, familiarization with high school staff and setting and the opportunity to “have an authentic concert band experience,” are among the positives, she said.
“This opportunity will provide consistency and enhance their music instruction by preparing them for the discipline and commitment required to be successful in the band program,” Kreschuk wrote in a letter to parents June 9.
At an info meeting at 100 Mile Elementary Tuesday, Kreschuk told students that taking part in band in the fall will be a big decision and may come at a sacrifice of certain after-school activities.
“A lot of music programs at a lot of schools throughout the province are run after school,” she said, noting it’s similar to participating in sports teams, which practice after hours.
“That’s why we’re giving you guys a lot of time to talk to your families and see whether it’s something that’s going to work.”
While the concerned parent said she sees the value in an expanded program, she said the school district should still offer formal elementary music instruction within the school day, given its current $1.5-million surplus.
“If the district was willing to employ someone to teach music, then parents would be happy,” she said.