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Clayton trims middle school fine arts

JONESBORO — Middle schoolers will have fewer fine arts choices starting this fall in Clayton County Public Schools.

Spokesman David Waller said the district is eliminating one or two different fine arts programs at each of its 15 middle schools in an effort to provide more consistent instruction.

Middle schools previously offered orchestra, chorus, band and visual arts programs but on a limited basis, he said. Schools shared instructors who spent half-days between buildings.

Principals were given discretion this year in determining which programs would remain and which to eliminate for this school year. He said the decisions are based partly on the level of interest at each school.

The move is disappointing to some, like retired educator Joanne Maples who believes fine arts are instrumental in educating children.

“It incorporates the whole child,” Maples said. “Taking programs out of middle school diminishes the vision of fine arts. You need to have all of them (or) it’s like taking the meat out of a sandwich. You’ve got to have it at all three levels of school.”

She retired in 2011, after 29 years in the district. She was a music specialist and lead elementary music teacher.

“We’ve had a history of fine arts support in this community,” she said.

Maples said she is a product of the Clayton County’s fine arts education and many of her pupils have that upbringing as well.

Some former students have gone on to pursue careers in the performing arts. Rachel Holmes, she said, is an opera singer in Wisconsin and Justin Belew is the music minister at his church.

Maples said that, while middle schoolers will get more of the consistency that is necessary in learning a discipline, they will be losing some options during a pivotal time in their development.

Waller said there are options available to students who want to enroll in a fine arts program that is not available at their assigned school.

Parents may apply for a transfer to a school that offers the program, so long as they are responsible for the student’s transportation.

He said students may also audition for the fine arts program at M.D. Roberts Middle School in Jonesboro. The program enrolls about 120 students in grades six through eight.

Parents should contact their schools about their fine arts programs.