Small rural schools across America struggle with ways to implement the arts. It is not a wonder that many have decided the arts may not be as important as other content areas. With declining school budgets in Colorado, many small rural schools no longer have the same programs that once existed fifteen years ago. I too have questioned the feasibility of providing classes that celebrate the arts. I am sometimes questioned as to if we really need that program any longer in our school. These are tough questions to answer and even tougher programs to find teachers willing to be so versatile with the required demands.
Honestly, I can sympathize with those schools who have decided to make these programs a thing of the past. Every year these programs are reviewed for their viability in a school budget that needs to meet the needs of growing student demands in other areas. However, last night at the Sanford School Winter Concert, I celebrated with parents as students performed in both chorus and band. The last band number of the evening featured students in grades five through twelve. My comment on social media, “combined 5th through twelve grade band #onlyinrurualAmerica”. It was a wonderful evening that was well attended and appreciated.
The Sanford School District continues to value arts by offering music to grades K-4, band to grades 5-12, an elementary honor choir, chorus to grades 7-12, and a drama club that will perform the musical “Annie” this coming spring. It may not always seamlessly fit into the class schedule. It may be difficult to find teachers with the skills and tenacity to accept such assignments. It may be questioned in the budget or the importance of arts in education.
My response? If you find yourself wondering if the arts belong in a small school, I invite you out to the next performance. I believe these wonderful students under the direction of an accomplished instructor will change your mind. As long as rural America continues to accept the struggles associated with keeping arts in their small schools, they will continue to celebrate with parents when these amazing students perform and smile at the crowd’s rewarding applause. Thank you to all who work to keep the arts alive in small rural schools.