CLEARFIELD – Parents continue to seek answers concerning the future plans for the music program at the Clearfield Area Elementary School.
During the public comment period on Monday night, parent Jennifer Campolong approached the Clearfield school board to simply ask what will happen to CAES music.
Superintendent Terry Struble said the administration is currently trying to find a solution involving after-school lessons taught by volunteers.
If implemented, he said the district would provide the space, develop the program structure and ensure the volunteers had all necessary clearances in place.
Right now he said this possibility has been pitched to the music teachers, and the administration is waiting on feedback before it moves forward.
When asked by Campolong, Struble said under the proposed structure, the individual lessons for third and fourth grade music students would be offered after school.
He added that they would consider factors such as which students can stay after school and which cannot. He said if students cannot stay, they’d try to work something out during the school day.
Campolong mentioned that in May an elementary teacher proposed two schedules, and both kept music lessons at 40 minutes. She asked what was wrong with them.
Struble explained that there wasn’t anything wrong, pointing out that the district added general music for the fifth and sixth grades. He said that consumed 14 periods of teaching for two teachers.
“That’s 14, 40-minute blocks of time that aren’t any longer available to do individual lessons,” he said.
Campolong replied that having lessons after school though would create transportation issues for families, including her own, with two working parents.
She then asked if it would be possible to hire a part-time teacher to make individual music lessons available during the school day.
Struble said the administration would have to find someone, and he hasn’t received any recommendations from officials from neighboring school districts or the Clearfield music teachers.
He went on to say that it would be extremely difficult to find a music teacher who would be willing to move here for a part-time position.
Struble said even if the district found a candidate, it would still have to find funds in its budget, and it could easily become a $40-$50,000 position at part-time.
Campolong questioned how it would not be possible for the district to fund this position when reasoning behind its elementary school consolidation was to create a cost savings.
Struble explained that state revenue hasn’t increased for the district, but its pension and healthcare costs have gone up astronomically.
He went on to say that if the state doesn’t change the way it funds schools, it will ultimately result in teacher furloughs and in turn larger class sizes and program cuts.
“Yes, there was a savings, but it’s been eaten up,” Struble said. He told Campolong, along with a few others present, that some districts don’t have elementary librarians and technology teachers.
Parent Shannon Dysard thanked board members and Struble for having a music committee meeting earlier this month. She asked if another one was planned to discuss how they could save the elementary music program.
Board President Larry Putt said there wasn’t another committee meeting planned on the subject matter at this time. When asked, he said they would consider organizing another in the future.
While she heard Struble speak about the financial side and how some districts don’t have librarians, parent Tammy Cline said perhaps those districts focused more on music.
“It seems whenever money is considered, that it’s the music programs being affected,” Cline said. “And that really bothers me as a parent.”