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Elementary music cut from schools
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“We’re asking the same as last year. We were a lot short and made massive cuts to meet those demands,” Jones said, adding, “We saw what we had to cut and cut it.”

The Polk County School system’s budget request is the same as last year, according to Director of Schools Dr. James Jones. Jones told budget committee members Thursday the funding received from BEP was about $280,000 lower because of a drop in students and eight positions have been cut in the county. Among the cuts is an elimination of music programs at all elementary schools.

According to Jones, some teachers were moved into positions held by retiring teachers, but some had to lose their jobs.

“We’re asking the same as last year. We were a lot short and made massive cuts to meet those demands,” Jones said, adding, “We saw what we had to cut and cut it.”

Along with music programs being cut at all elementary schools, a computer lab was cut at Chilhowee Middle School. A media class at Copper Basin High School can’t be funded and home economics was cut from Copper Basin. Three positions were cut at Benton Elementary School – a 1st grade, 5th grade and PE teacher. Because of student numbers, nothing other than music was cut from Copper Basin Elementary.

Jones said the Health Occupations classes will remain. He said students taking the Health Occupations class are certified as a CNA once they finish and can immediately go to work after graduation. Jones said he had received more calls about keeping the HOSA program than anything else.

“We took it by the numbers,” Jones said. “Wherever the numbers were low, that’s where we had to cut.”

A group of music supporters and members of the Polk County High School Band Boosters attended a school board meeting held Monday to express their concern about the band program. Stephanie Carver told the board they were not just boosters, but represented children of the past, present, and future of music in Polk County. Band Booster President Missy Payne told the board they had been told the band would no longer be going to away games during football season.

Carver told the board that unlike sports, every child was a participant when they were in the marching band. She said there were no benchwarmers, no JV team, and no one stood on the sidelines. She pointed to the Walker Valley High School band to illustrate that there are even times when it is the band that people come to see, as apposed to the football team.

Carver told the board band gave value to students and they were gaining skills even when they did not realize it. She said Department of Education data showed higher proficiencies in math for students in band. According to Carver, students in band performed higher in both math and verbal on college entrance exams. She also pointed out that the rigor of practicing, summer band camps, and other music-related activities helped keep students out of trouble.

Concern was also raised about the lack of a music program at Chilhowee Middle School. Carver said when students get to high school with absolutely no experience reading music, it makes it harder for them to learn the music and learn half-time routines.

Carver asked the board to ensure the program would be safe and to consider raising ticket prices to football games one dollar to help raise funds for the band program. She said many schools in the area charge a higher ticket price as well as a parking fee. She said they did not want a parking fee and said the band boosters would volunteer to work the gate at home games.

Payne told the school board her son had special needs and was unable to play sports, but band had changed his life. She said the band has already waned because there was no program at Chilhowee and that the students wanted something they could be proud of. She pointed out they had asked to sell ice cream or other items at football games to raise money, but were told it conflicted with the current concessions sales.

First District School Board member Mark Williams said there had been no talk of eliminating the band program at the high school. Jones said he had talked with the incoming band instructor, and the band would be going to away games.  The booster club had been told she wanted to support her kids, who go to school in Cleveland, but Jones said she was positive and looking forward to her job.

The school board will hold a budget committee meeting July 1 at 7 p.m.

At the budget committee meeting, First District Commissioner John Pippenger asked if there was a bus request this year. Jones said no, but next year ten buses will be needed. He said they were considering looking at making bus stops instead of going to every house and cutting some buses and would probably be looking at leasing used buses.

The budget committee also heard from General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Billy Baliles. Baliles said his budgets were essentially the same, but that a recording system would be needed. He said he currently has a sony recorder but something better was needed.

“A lot of counties have a video system to arraign people from about 7 a.m. – 9 p.m.,” Baliles said, adding they would be forced to do it eventually. He said he thought a system would be about $6000 and other counties had been able to get grants. Baliles said he was going to ask the Sheriff’s Department to start looking for a grant, but wanted to bring the matter to the attention of the budget committee.

The next county budget meeting will be June 17th at 7 p.m.

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