School board to discuss potential for elimination today


The future of the Janesville School District’s fifth-grade band and orchestra programs will be up for discussion when the school board meets 5:30 p.m. today at the Janesville Educational Services Center, 527 S. Franklin St.

District staff has recommended eliminating those programs and offering general music classes in kindergarten through fifth grade after an “in-depth evaluation” of the district’s K-12 music programs, according to a memo from Tina Johnson, assistant director of administrative and human services.

In an interview, Johnson said her recommendation calls for moving the fifth-grade band and orchestra programs to sixth grade.

She stressed that she made the recommendation with input and support from principals and music teachers.

Johnson’s memo, which is included in the school board’s meeting packet, was released Monday. The rest of the agenda and accompanying memos were released Friday.

The full board must approve the recommendation for it to take effect.

About 64 percent of fifth-graders are enrolled in band or orchestra, according to the memo. Band and orchestra are “pull-out” programs, which means students leave their regularly scheduled classes to attend those programs.

“This creates scheduling conflicts for buildings and students and loss of instruction time in core curriculum, reading and math,” Johnson wrote in her memo to the board.

Other issues include travel time for instrumental and classroom music teachers, inefficient use of staff resources and “declining student retention rates in instrumental classes,” according to the memo.

By the time students reach high school, only 11 percent of them participate in band or orchestra, according to the memo.

Under the proposed changes, beginning band and orchestra would be offered to sixth-graders.

In fifth grade, music instruction would increase from 60 minutes per week to 90 minutes per week and would include 30 minutes dedicated to choral music, 30 minutes of instrumental appreciation and 30 minutes of general music.

Instead of picking out an instrument in 15 minutes at the beginning of the school year, students would have 30 minutes each week to explore instrumental music and decide what they might like to play in middle school, Johnson told The Gazette.

“We want to build a more robust music program,” Johnson said.

In addition, the state is changing the licensing requirements for music education. Under those changes, all music majors are licensed as K-12 music teachers “regardless of their specialized area,” the memo states.

“Janesville has operated under this model for a few years and has noticed a considerable difference in our fifth-grade beginning band experience from school to school,” Johnson wrote in the memo.

The district’s evaluation of the K-12 music program also resulted in other changes, Johnson said, including a new percussion class at the high school and more music electives in the middle schools.

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