Music, art may return to D-26

CARY – Next school year, Cary’s School District 26 hopes to bring back teachers specifically for music, art and physical education.

District officials Tuesday presented a preliminary staffing plan for next year, which includes adding 12 teachers dedicated to those subjects, and having 90-minute language-arts classes in junior high.

Under the plan, which is scheduled for a board vote in February, kindergarteners through fifth-graders will have physical education twice a week, art class once a week, and music once week. Each class would be 30 minutes.

Before program cuts to help balance the district’s budget, elementary students had PE five days a week, and art and music for an hour a week.

“They’re getting half of that back,” Superintendent Brian Coleman said.

At the junior high, sixth-graders would have daily physical education, as seventh- and eighth-graders have now. And junior high students would have art and music for six weeks each.

Before programs were cut, students had art, music and family consumer sciences for 12 weeks each during seventh grade, and health, foreign language and industrial arts for 12 weeks each during eighth grade, said Cary Junior High Principal Linda Goeglein.

Bringing back art and music also creates planning and collaboration time for teachers, Coleman said.

Next school year, class size is expected to drop to an average of 25.3 students per class from 26.5 students.

Districts try determine a staffing plan at this time of year because in March districts have to let teachers know whether they’ll be retained for the following school year.

There are seven months between today and the first day of the 2013-14 school year, Coleman said. “A lot can happen between now and the first day.”

The cost of adding the 12 teachers for special classes is estimated to cost an additional $552,000 and keeps a balanced budget, Coleman said. The costs will be incorporated into the district’s five-year plan.

It requires hiring the new teachers and retiree replacements at a bachelor degree level.

The plan also includes going to a double-block schedule for language arts classes in sixth through eighth grades. Language art classes would go to 90 minutes from 52 minutes a day.

It would provide time for meeting and increasing student achievement, provide time for differentiated instruction, offer more individualized instruction, and more time to focus on reading and writing among other things, Coleman said.

Coleman said the staffing plan is based on what is known today in terms of finances. He reiterated that the state’s financial situation, changes to general state aid and other revenue, and whether pension costs are shifted to districts are things the district cannot control.

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