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School Committee member supports parents' fight for more art

Posted by Johanna Seltz  October 25, 2010 11:19 AM

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Saying she was shocked at how little art instruction Milton elementary school students get compared with their peers in neighboring towns, one School Committee member promised to push for improvement.

“It was shocking, just shocking,” Kristan Bagley Jones said of the comparison numbers presented by parents to the School Committee earlier this week.

“We’ve done a great job with music, and now we need to do a great job with art,” she said. “It comes down to finances, and exactly how we’ll do that, I don’t know. But art and music belong in our schools, and we need to find a way to get them back.”

Bagley Jones said she would work to restore art funding in next school year’s budget.

Milton has one elementary art teacher, who divides her time among four schools. Students get 30 minutes of art a week for half the school year.

That translates to 10.5 hours a year of art instruction, according to concerned parents who raised the subject at the School Committee meeting. And it’s far less than other schools in the area provide, according to one parent’s research.

For example, Quincy’s elementary school students get 45 minutes of art a week for the entire year, or 32.5 hours altogether. Newton’s elementary school students get 43 hours or art instruction, and Westwood’s get between 35.7 and 64.5 hours a year.

Elementary students in Scituate and Braintree get 40 minutes of art a week for the whole year, totaling 25.8 hours.

The numbers come from Jessica Gillooly, an art educator who has a first-grader at Cunningham Elementary school. She and other parents – all carrying artwork done by their students – brought their concerns to the School Committee and asked how to make art a priority.

Janet Gilmore, who has a kindergartner and eighth-grader in the public schools, said she’s seen the amount of art taught in Milton dwindle since her older child began school. “It used to be a robust program,” she said.

“I appreciate that the kids who are really interested in art get to focus on it in middle school and high school" in an arts honors program, she said. “But it leaves out a lot of kids. ... It all boils down to a really pathetic amount of time that kids get to develop that part of their brain.”

Gilmore said the parents would continue to ask for more art in the schools.

“I think it will snowball,” she said. “There are a lot of really creative people in Milton, and whether they have kids in the system or not, I think they will support it.”

Johanna Seltz can be reached at seelenfam@verizon.net.

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