Elementary band is on the chopping block

The cancellation of band programs in elementary schools begins next fall.

A WHOLESALE shift in where students are taught beginning next year has claimed one casualty – the cancellation of band programs in elementary schools.

The decision has everything to do with the new look of elementary schools which will have Kindergarten to Grade 6 students.

Band is now taught in Grades 6 and 7 but with Grade 7 students being sent off to Skeena Junior, which will become a Grade 7 to 9 middle school, the district felt with only on year of band left at the elementary level,  it made more sense to wait until all of the students were together at Skeena to offer the program, said Brent Speidel, the school district’s director of instruction.

“At this point in time it is not our plan to offer band at the Grade 6 level,” said Speidel.

Students will now have to wait until their first year of middle school, Grade 7, to take up band as an elective, he said.

The band cancellation decision is wrapped up in a massive change beginning next year. Thornhill Junior Secondary School is closing with its Grade 8 and 9 students going to Skeena Junior Secondary.

Grade 10 students who would normally go to Thornhill Junior and Skeena’s Grade 10 students are to be sent to Caledonia Senior Secondary which will be become a Grade 10-12 school. Grade 7 students in Thornhill and Terrace will be going to Skeena as it converts to a Grade 7-9 middle school.

Speidel said only offering band in middle and high schools is common place across B.C.

“We are talking about a year’s  difference, many school districts don’t offer band until kids get to Grade 8,” Speidel said.

He pointed out that Skeena Junior is better equipped for a band program because it has its own band room.

The effect on elementary music and band teachers isn’t yet known nor the effect on secondary school band teachers.

“It all depends on how the staffing looks, and how many kids choose band as an elective,” he explained of how many teachers might be needed.

George Clark from the Dare to Dream foundation, which supports music for local youths, said the group is saddened and disappointed to hear that band may be removed from local elementary schools.

The foundation was formed when the school district cut elementary band programs before because of budget restrictions.

Money raised by the foundation was then used to help pay for elementary band.

“We found a solution for them before, and would like to see if we can again,” Clark said.

He said he understands the financial pressure school districts are under and hopes the district will contact Dare to Dream with ways the foundation can help prevent the loss of elementary band.

Clark spoke to the evidence that students who participate in music are more likely to succeed academically.

“The more music the better,” he stated. “Music is what we are really good at in Terrace.”