Tuba, trombone and drums will have to wait until sixth grade.

After more than an hour of discussion, the Janesville School Board approved changes to the district’s music program, effectively eliminating fifth-grade band and orchestra. District officials insist the program is not going away and is merely moving to sixth grade.

In addition, all fifth-grade students—not just those in band and orchestra—will receive more music instruction. Currently, fifth-graders get 60 minutes a week; next year, they will get 90 minutes.

The vote was 7-1. Board President Kevin Murray voted no, and board member Dale Thompson was absent.

Three people spoke against the plan.

Middle school student Jacob Hanekamp said he thinks band should start in fifth grade.

“Learning a musical instrument is an exponential process,” Hanekamp said. “As you learn more and more, you learn faster.”

Parent Derek Sherman described it as “a terrible idea.”

“Everyone knows that the younger a child starts an instrument, the easier it is to learn,” Sherman said.

Another parent worried kids would be less likely to join band in middle school.

Tina Johnson, assistant director of administrative and human services, told the board the decision was made after months of research and discussion with music teachers and principals.

The district also wanted to make sure its music teachers were being used efficiently, she said.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction recommends that music staff teach 25 to 28 sections or classes per week. In the past, the district standard was about 24 sections.

“We do not have anyone teaching 24 per week,” Johnson said. “We have teachers with 14 to 21 sections.”

Eight teachers would be able to handle that workload of music instruction, Johnson said, but the district has 30.

When they are not teaching music, those employees provide tutoring in math and reading or handle recess duty.

Instead of making staff cuts, district officials want to have music teachers in the classroom, Johnson said.

In an interview after the meeting, Johnson said they are considering different ways to get music teachers more classroom time. One idea would involve teachers specializing in grade levels. That would mean more teachers would travel between schools, but they would be able use their planning time more efficiently because they would be able to focus on planning for a few grades instead of all of them.

Johnson also said the additional 30 minutes of music instruction for fifth-graders will allow students to familiarize themselves with instruments and have a better idea of what they might like to play in middle school.

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