Music strings courses approved

The Laguna Beach Unified School District board of education on Tuesday unanimously approved expanding music strings courses next school year at all four public schools.

Strings classes will be added for fourth- and fifth-grade students at Top of the World and El Morro elementary schools, and a strings section will be added at Thurston Middle School as will an Advanced Placement music and other electives at Laguna Beach High School. Courses would be a part of the regular school day, not after-school programs.

Deni Christensen, assistant superintendent of instructional services, presented her proposal to board members. The district does not currently offer strings instruction during the school day at either elementary school or at Thurston.

"We are an arts community without a string orchestra," said Christensen, whose goal is to create a string orchestra at the high school.

In addition to the new middle school classes, high school elective courses will now include Advanced Placement music theory (open to juniors and seniors) and beginning-level ukulele and guitar.

Six additional courses will be added among all four schools beginning in September. The district will hire one additional instructor. Three credentialed music instructors already employed by the district will each receive a stipend of $1,600 per year to supervise and oversee lesson planning for the music courses.

The total cost for the six additional sections is $120,000, the proposal says. The annual cost of professional expert hours at the elementary schools is $7,000.

SchoolPower, a nonprofit that raises funds for Laguna Beach public schools, has agreed to provide $50,000 each of the next three years toward the costs. The three stipends are expected to cost $4,800.

Jan Vickers, the board's clerk who returned after missing last week's special meeting due to a shoulder injury, wanted to know if the demand for the strings courses justified the financial cost. Christensen said it is too early to tell what the response will be until students register for classes this spring.

"Kids deserve the same opportunities we give to the band and choir kids," Christensen said by phone earlier Tuesday.

By placing the strings courses within the school day, Christensen said the music courses will not compete with students' other after-school activities.

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