School officials discuss arts, music programs expansion

Despite a less-than-stellar budget scenario for Burbank schools next academic year — which could mean $2.7 million less for the district than anticipated — officials have started discussing how they can expand instrumental, dance and theater programs over the next three years.

While speaking about the budget for next year, Larry Applebaum, school board president, said, "only time will tell" as they wait for state officials to adopt their budget in June.

In the meantime, any anticipated funding limitations won't stop local school officials from drafting a plan to restore music and arts programs across the district.

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Earlier this school year, Peggy Flynn, the district's arts and career technical education coordinator, and Daniel Swartz, a teacher on special assignment for arts and career-technical education, teamed up to produce a report to guide spending decisions.

The Burbank school board discussed the report for the first time last week during a special study session where Supt. Matt Hill said Flynn and Swartz put in "countless hours" on the plan.

"We've had fierce conversations and debates about these options," he said.

Some of the major points in the report detail ways the district can provide music instruction for all elementary grades, expand instrumental music to all fourth- and fifth-graders, and add orchestra programs at three schools that now have only band — David Starr Jordan and Luther Burbank middle schools and John Burroughs High School.

Adding strings programs at those three schools would cost at least $208,000, according to the report.

Overall, music programs differ at each of the elementary schools, with many funded in varying amounts by parent donations, booster clubs, grants or nonprofit organizations.

In 2007, Burbank school officials set out to restore district-funded music instruction that had been cut at the elementary level.

Now, the district pays for five instructors to teach weekly general music classes to students in second through fifth grades, but officials want to provide music instruction to students in junior kindergarten, kindergarten and first grade, too.

The cost to hire a credentialed music teacher would cost an estimated $83,000 per year, as opposed to $42,000 to bring on a non-credentialed music consultant, according to the report.

One suggestion for adding instrumental instruction in the fourth and fifth grades would have the district spend at least $22,000 for ukuleles.

Flynn and Swartz also took a meticulous inventory of every instrument across the district's 20 schools, and, in the process, unearthed in a closet a stash of violins that had gone missing about a decade ago.

The inventory comes with estimated costs for maintaining the thousands of instruments each year, notes their lifespan and which ones should be replaced. Flynn and Swartz recommended using a digital database to keep inventory up-to-date.

The school board could take action on some suggestions in May.

That's when school officials may also opt to give more training opportunities to its current physical education instructors to teach dance in the middle schools, which local P.E. instructors already provide as part of the state's physical education standards, but additional training would enhance the dance instruction.

It's also expected that new drama and theater courses will begin at Luther and Jordan middle schools — two of the three middle schools that don't currently offer those classes — this fall.

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Kelly Corrigan, kelly.corrigan@latimes.com

Twitter: @kellymcorrigan

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