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- November 1, 2018 at 4:26 pm #581648Stuart RosenthalParticipant
Hello all –
I’m the director of arts at a PreK-12 school, where the master schedule of classes has been the bane of the arts program for many years. With a new building coming on line in two years, we are finally talking about revamping the master schedule, and this is my chance to effect change. I am writing to see if any of my colleagues in this forum have been through this process and if you might have any ideas or suggestions or resources I could turn to so I can be a more effective advocate for my programs. How do you fit a reasonably broad selection of arts classes into a packed master class schedule in a way that supports healthy enrollment?
If this subject interests you, here are some more details on what we’re up against:
• While we have 1300 students, there are no more than 90 students per grade level. If we were a school with 250 per grade, enough kids would make it through the scheduling obstacle course that we’d be able to run decent sized classes, but as it is, it’s a small group to try to pull from.
• It’s a school that takes college placement very seriously, so there is a major focus on Advanced Placement, STEM, and advanced foreign language classes, many of which only have one or two sections, scattered throughout the schedule. When students have to choose between AP US History, Chinese 3, and a technical theatre elective, all of which are offered just once in the schedule, guess which wins?
• While we manage to fit NINE periods into the schedule (classes go to 4pm each day), we are a parochial school, and students are obliged to take two periods’ worth of religious education classes in addition to their other classes. Between this and the AP’s and such just mentioned, most students have just one free period to devote to an elective.
• Arts courses are the last classes that are fit into a student’s schedule. “Okay, Zoe, we’ve got you in all the proper sections of English, math, science, history, foreign language, seminar, and religious studies. That leaves you Period D free. Acting? Oh that meets Period H – sorry.”
All 275 or so MS students have to take an arts class, and can currently choose between band, orchestra, and visual arts. Classes are organized by grade level (Grade 6 Art, Grade 7 Art, Grade 8 Art, etc.) and there roughly two sections of each (15 kids per section). Each class meets just twice a week (it used to be four times, but now the other two they go to the new “multimedia maker lab” for extra STEM). There isn’t a middle school drama class or chorus at this point. I am working to add these, but the other arts teachers are concerned about added competition for students. We do offer an after school Middle School musical, but given how late classes get out (plus other competing activities), many of the shows only have 10-15 cast members.
LOWER SCHOOL AND EARLY CHILDHOOD
Students in these grades get Studio Art twice a week for 30 minutes per visit, and General Music twice a week for 30 minutes per visit. Like the older grades, these kids have a hefty religious studies curriculum that must fit into the day along with the usual subjects, so the classroom teachers are loathe to give up any more time for art or music. Students interested in theatre can do the Lower School Musical after school, and many do (lots more than Middle School). I feel there is a major deficit of music opportunities for kids in grades 4 and 5, who should be already be singing or learning an instrument if it’s something they want to continue with in Middle School. Making kids wait ‘til Middle School to pick up a trumpet or clarinet for the first time drags down our entire program. I am wondering if we can somehow double the number of arts minutes in Grades 4 and 5, and perhaps have them choose an art or music track (including instrumental and choral), so that they’re taking one discipline for 120 minutes a week instead of two for 30 minutes each.
But enough about us. What were YOUR challenges, and how have you gone about solving them? THANKS!
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