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Comprehensive K-6 Music Plan Unveiled

After an earlier plan to alter Centralia’s fifth and sixth specialized music offerings such as band, strings, and choir was met with resistance by the district’s board of directors, the district has announced a new comprehensive K-6 music education plan. The new proposal was drafted through a collaborative effort by the district’s K-6 music committee.

Under the new proposal, band and strings courses will remain inside the normal school day and will be offered to all sixth grade students along with an honor choir option that will meet at least twice weekly during lunch recesses. Students will not be required to participate in these activities, however every student will have an opportunity to explore their interest in band and strings before being able to choose to participate in alternative fine arts offerings instead. Sixth grade specialized music instruction time will increase from 30 minutes daily to 45 minutes. These changes will come into effect at the start of the 2019-2020 school year.

“Our committee’s goal was to create a comprehensive K-6 music education program,” said Kristy Vetter, Executive Director of Teaching and Learning. “We looked at neighboring districts to see how they offered music courses to elementary students, and then we examined our new K-6 model, our financial and staffing constraints, and put together a plan through a great collaborative effort that expands music education for most of our K-6 students.”

Under the new comprehensive plan:

  • Kindergarten through third grade students will receive up to 45 hours of general music instruction annually. This is an increase from 6-12 hours currently offered.
  • Fourth and fifth grade students will receive up to 45 hours of general music instruction annually. Fourth grade students currently receive 36 hours of general music, while 5th grade received 90 hours of specialized instruction (band, strings choir).
  • Sixth grade students will receive 135 hours of specialized music instruction, an increase from their current 90 hours.
  • An additional strings section will be created at Centralia Middle School, allowing for separate 7th and 8th grade sections.

In order to increase exposure to music education for all K-6 students, the committee reached a compromise at the 5th grade level. Those students will still receive general music instruction, and additional time is given in 6th grade for specialized instruction,. “We are gaining some time in the 6th grade to make up for that,” said Louie Blaser, Band Instructor. “I appreciate that it’s within the school day, so there are no roadblocks to kids who want to participate,” Blaser added.

Instruction will remain daily for 6th grade students, “that’s important, especially for kids who don’t have space to practice at home,” said Amiee Dietz, band Instructor.

“The plan solves the issue of having strings offered at all 5 elementary schools,” said Dr. Josh Friedlander, Strings Instructor. “Even though 5th is gone, we are separating 7th and 8th so they can continue their development. It provides for more targeted development.”

“We’ll be able to build a better foundation with our primary aged students,” said Anne Schaefer, Elementary Music Teacher. “There will be a lot more consistency.”

The new proposal comes at a cost, “but when we looked at the cost of transportation under the first proposal, and compared it to the additional staffing costs involved in this plan, the cost is nearly the same,” Vetter said. The district anticipates a ½ time strings teacher to meet the plan needs.

Vetter said that the committee worked hard to create a comprehensive plan that received broad consensus from the group. “We wanted this plan to be as close to something we can all agree on as possible. The group worked very hard to create this well-balanced approach to K-6 music that will benefit all students in the new elementary school model.”

Committee members included Kristy Vetter (Executive Director of teaching and Learning), Louis Blaser (band instructor), Dr. Josh Friedlander (strings instructor), Amiee Dietz (band instructor), Lauri Johnson (CHS choir instructor), Lori Fast (CSD board member), Kerri Kite (CEA co-president), and Anne Schaefer (elementary general music teacher).

Results of the district’s recent community survey revealed that 66% of CSD staff, 53% of parents, and 58% of responding students favored making the elementary band, choir, and strings programs voluntary if alternative elective courses were offered. “I think the committee honored those broad community sentiments very well,” Vetter said. “Not only are we building a more comprehensive K-6 music plan, we’re now able to look at how we can offer new fine arts electives to students who don’t necessarily want to be a part of band, strings, or choir.”