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Crossing the fine arts line?

School district may no longer require course for graduation

Nov. 10, 2009

Greenfield — Among the proposed changes in high school graduation requirements beginning with next year's freshmen, one option has generated concerns that fewer students will enter into fine arts programs.

Greenfield School District officials are proposing to drop the mandatory requirement that students take a half-credit fine arts course, as well as half-credit fourth-semester physical education and a career education course.

Administrators said the changes would allow students and parents flexibility in picking electives and more freedom determining their schedules.

School officials made it clear the high school's fine arts program itself would not be dropped - only the half-credit requirement for graduation would be eliminated.

"We're interested in seeing if we can have increased student choice and voice, allowing students to study deeper into the area of interest," said John Thomsen, director of secondary education, during Monday's School Board meeting. "(We're) not cutting programs, but allowing students to make decisions."

Opponents argued the change would mean fewer kids enrolling in fine arts programs, which they pointed to as an invaluable part of a child's education.

"We're looking at something where we're reducing what makes us unique in this world," resident Claudia Reilly told board members. "Art used to be for those who are wealthy and privileged. Why would we turn around and reduce any sort of ability for students, especially the ones who are higher at risk, by reducing the art requirement?"

Thomsen said he is confident students would continue to take fine arts programs, though he acknowledged class sizes may fluctuate from year to year.

Students seriously interested in the program could even take more fine arts classes, he said.

Eliminating the fine-arts requirement isn't the only concern. School officials said they also struggled with ending the fourth-semester physical education course requirement in light of increased child obesity throughout the nation.

The School Board held off making a decision in its meeting Monday. The measure will be likely brought back to the board Nov. 23.

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