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This article was published 9/2/2019 (253 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
A new pilot project in the Seine River School Division has one band teacher feeling thankful for the support that the division is now throwing behind their music programs.
"One of this division’s priorities is to further their music and arts programs and enhance those programs, but it’s still amazing to see them step up in this way and show this level of support," Ste Anne Elementary School band teacher Joshua Bater said.
"To be honest I was really surprised when I first heard they were going forward with this."
Bater said some of the stresses that typically come along with his job have now been eliminated now that SRSD has started a two-year pilot project that will see band rentals for all grade 6-8 students throughout the division completely paid for by SRSD.
"It’s huge, just huge," Bater said. "We’ve had a number of difficult situations in the past because parents just weren’t finding ways to pay for the rentals, or to travel to the city to pick up instruments.
"This definitely allows me to focus more on the teaching aspect which allows for more success in the classroom."
Bater added he has also seen many of his students show an increased level of interest in the band program and in what they can achieve with their instruments now that the division is covering those rental costs.
"The ownership level went up when the students all had their own instruments and I saw way higher practice levels," Bater said.
With band class being compulsory for grade 6-8 students throughout the division, SRSD board chair Wendy Bloomfield said the board decided to start the two-year project with the cost to the board sitting at approximately $100,000 per year to pay for the rentals of approximately 1,000 grade 6-8 students.
"We were finding more and more that a lot of parents were really struggling with trying to cover those costs, and so we felt that it was important the board try to support the parents with this program," Bloomfield said.
Bloomfield added that as budgets get tighter in many Manitoba school divisions, SRSD is committed to finding ways to maintain their music and arts programs and not make cuts to those programs.
"We have four priorities at SRSD and one is to continue to enhance the arts and music and drama because we do feel that it is really important to overall student learning," she said.
"A lot of times those programs are the first to go, when they should be the last to go."
Bloomfield said she has also seen throughout her career where students who have struggled with standard school classes like math and science have gained confidence by excelling in the arts.
"We had one kid recently who struggled in school but music was his savior and he might not have pulled through if it wasn’t for music," Bloomfield said. "It can be a real confidence boost for some kids, so it’s very important to keep these programs strong."
Bloomfield said the initial feedback from parents and staff about the program has been positive and added the division will revisit the program after the two years are up to make a decision on if it is something that will continue.
"We plan to maintain our focus on music and the arts and so far we have found this has been something that has been good for students and helped to alleviate a lot of stress on parents," Bloomfield said.