A full program of vocal music instruction will be waiting for elementary students next fall in the Torrance Unified School District. The program was cut from last year's curriculum when trustees slashed a wide range of offerings to make up a $1.4-million budget deficit.
But a 4.1% cost-of-living allocation from the state, along with an increase in lottery money, provided enough funds to restore four positions for vocal music teachers, officials said.
"Much of the time, unfortunately, we are concerned with reducing programs and closing schools, so it's a happy change to be able to restore something," Trustee David Sargent said. "Vocal music is good for kids, not just for the music, but also (for) the camaraderie, cultural learning and building self-esteem."
The Torrance district also filled three other positions: reading teacher, high school counselor and nurse. The seven positions will cost an estimated $260,000.
If more money becomes available, Sargent said, additional reinstatements may be picked from a priority list that includes elementary classroom aides, non-teaching jobs and field trips for students.
Other South Bay school districts contacted said their vocal music programs have been enhanced or are continuing as before. Hawthorne Elementary plans to add a half-time music teacher to its 2-person staff.
"Fine arts are an important part of our curriculum, and the addition of another teacher will help us expand both our vocal music and instrumental programs," Assistant Supt. Ken Blake said in Hawthorne.
At Redondo Beach Elementary, Assistant Supt. Janice Smith said school music instruction perked up two years ago through a cooperative program with the city's Parks and Recreation Department.
"Thanks to the city's participation, we have a full vocal music program going, and this fall we'll work together on a pilot instrumental program for the middle schools," Smith said.
In the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District, elementary students receive vocal music instruction from classroom teachers as part of the regular curriculum in fine arts, spokeswoman Nancy Mahr said. Chorus is offered as an elective at the intermediate and high school levels.
However, instrumental music instruction at the elementary level and a special early morning session for intermediate students will be eliminated this fall, Mahr said. Band will continue at the intermediate and high school levels.
Friends of School Music, a peninsula organization headed by Brigitte Schuegraf, has long supported the band music program for grade school students, but the financial gap became too great to fill with voluntary contributions, Mahr said.