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Central Kitsap School District studies cuts to music time

Over the next few months, Central Kitsap School District will consider how to reduce music education to give fifth- and sixth-graders more time for reading and science during the school day.

Central Kitsap fifth- and sixth-graders currently get an average of 45 minutes of music instruction each school day, compared to 90 minutes of math and more than two hours of reading.

Proposed alternatives would reduce music to 30 minutes, and increase reading or social studies and science.

The decision came out of a series of community forums and staff input about Central Kitsap students needing more science classes, said Peggy Ellis, director of elementary education.

"It's an area we're struggling most," she said.

About 70 percent of Central Kitsap fifth-graders meet state standards for reading and 54 percent meet standards for science, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction Washington State Report Card.

Cutting sixth-grade music instruction down to two 40-minute classes per week could save the district as much as $192,000, or 2.4 full-time equivalency positions, according to an estimate by David McVicker, district finance director.

Superintendent Greg Lynch said the district will meet with teachers and form a proposal to recommend to the school board by the end of May.

"It's not my intent to dismantle the music program," Lynch said.

School board member Christy Cathcart was resistant to the idea of reducing music.

"Literacy comes in multiple forms," she said.

Board member Eric Greene said in his experience, more hours of literacy classes don't necessarily encourage kids to enjoy reading. Greene said his son came to enjoy reading through historic fiction after enjoying his history classes.

"To me, the reason kids don't want to read is they're not getting enough exposure to appreciate what's there," Greene said.

Fairview Junior High School music teacher Jeremy Faxon said the music program is already suffering from staff reductions and smaller budgets for instrument repair and supplies.

"It's not a question of which 'option' is better, or least harmful," he said. "The answer is simply, 'Do not cut your music program.' "

Faxon said a half hour of band class every day is a place for children to be positive and creative with music.

"This is a gift. An art. You don't take that away from a ten-year-old kid because you need to save money," Faxon said.

--Kate Whittle

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