Increasing expenses, declining enrollment jeopardize future of 3 elementary art courses

When a group of fourth-grade students got together and collected signatures for a petition at their Clear Creek Elementary School a few weeks ago, they simply wanted to keep their art teacher, Karla Vaneycke.

Vaneycke has been the art specialist at Clear Creek for three years. The art program at the school is in its fourth year.

Clear Creek was the recipient of staffing allocation funds from the Central Kitsap School District because the school surpassed the 18 class sections limit for an elementary school building. The school used the extra funds to pay for a part-time art specialist.

In the current school year, there are 19 classes, next fall the projected number is 16.

“Financially we can’t afford to support the continuation of the art program at our building,” said Clear Creek principal Jeanne Beckon.

It was she the fourth-graders appealed to with their petition.

“They’re trying to rally around each other,” she said.

But Beckon is unable to keep Vaneycke on her staff as an art teacher now that the school’s enrollment has declined.

“I think it will have a really big impact,” Beckon said about losing the art specialist. “It will be a challenge for us to implement the visual arts into our general education classroom.”

Dropping enrollment

ripples beyond elementary art program classrooms

Across the district, three elementary schools have had art specialists on staff for several years. However, a steadily shrinking student population, due to lower birth rates and downward trends in military population in the area, is anticipated to force CKSD into shrinking some programs in response.

The district is now conducting a demographic study, to update the numbers from the last one completed in 2000. According to data and projections based on the last demographic study, the 2006-07 school year should bring 12,292 students to CK schools, some of them attending only part-time. That’s a slump of more than 1,000 since the district’s attendance peeked in 1999 at 13,361.

Extra funds caused by

over-enrollment originated funding for visual arts

High enrollment numbers at Emerald Heights Elementary School allowed it to add an art specialist in the 1990s, practically since the school opened. Clear Creek and Silverdale elementary schools followed the example and used their extra district funds to establish an art program. Silverdale has been using some of its extra building funds to supplement its art teacher, Patti Ellis.

Physical education and music are staples across CKSD. Ideally, an elementary school has 18 class sections, said Bruce Hobert, executive director of human resources. Nine of those classes go to PE Monday and music on Tuesday. The rotation through PE and music allows the general education teachers a planning hour. At the same time, one PE and one music teacher at that building have a full-time load as well.

“Now that enrollment’s declining and Clear Creek is below 18, they’re starting to (go into) PE and music inefficiency,” Hobert said.

Emerald Heights is projected to have 21 classes next year, Silverdale should have 19.

Art specialists to be

re-assigned as program’s future uncertain

Hobert is working on finding another place for Vaneycke within the school district, because she, and the other two elementary art specialists, are on continuing contracts. Part-time art teacher at the secondary schools or general education teacher at the elementary level are possibilities, he says.

Emerald Heights and Silverdale, where the art specialists would still be providing some planning time for the general teachers, is a more complex situation where Ellis and Leslie Boyer, Emerald Heights’ art specialist, might have to split their time between subjects or between buildings.

“My heart feels for them,” said Lorinne Lee, Olympic High School art teacher and district art curriculum specialist. “They have so much to offer children.”

Lee has worked with all three elementary art specialists and said Boyer and Ellis are each recipients of the Art Educator of the Year award from the Washington Art Education Association.

Boyer has been involved with the art program at Emerald Heights for 13 years and this school year she was glad to finally have her own classroom. She says she’s not worried about keeping her .6 part-time position because she is certified to teach special education and general classes at the elementary level. Her worry is that the visual arts program will be pushed back into the general education classroom, which is what most schools in the district already offer.

WASL’s forthcoming

art requirement peeking

around the corner

James Andrews heard about the looming end of the art programs at the three CK schools. An art teacher at Kingston Junior High School and a CK resident, he is concerned because his two young daughters are planning to attend Emerald Heights in a few years.

Andrews said that removing the existing art programs from the three elementary schools would be a mistake in light of the upcoming arts classroom-based performance assessments. The CBPAs are part of the state’s Washington Assessment of Student Learning requirements and in 2008-09 the results of art assessments for fifth-, eighth- and 10th-grade students will have to be reported to the state.

“If I don’t have an elementary program that supports the high school assessments, I’m not quite sure how we’re going to do this all,” Lee said.

District administrators say that the art program is embedded within the general education curriculum at the elementary level and that will continue to be the standard.

“We’re getting complaints from the community in regards to state art requirements,” Hobert said. “We value the arts but we can’t offer the Cadillac program anymore.”

Before the district finalizes its decision about next year’s staffing, however, the elementary art specialists and Lee are hoping to give a presentation at a May school board meeting on the merits of the art program for the youngest pupils.

“I’m not packing my suitcases yet,” Boyer said. “My feeling is the program would be gone if no one said anything. My hope is ... they will realize that it is valuable to enough students that it is something they do not want to eliminate.”

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