Orchestra cut will affect fewer students, officials sayIn response to a $1.4 million projected budget deficit, members of the Cloquet School Board voted in favor of cutting the orchestra program, a move expected to save the district over $25,000.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
In response to a $1.4 million projected budget deficit, members of the Cloquet School Board voted in favor of cutting the orchestra program, a move expected to save the district over $25,000.
The orchestra program has been offered in the Cloquet School District for at least 50 years, according to Superintendent Ken Scarbrough. In this fact, the Cloquet School District is unique; the closest area school with an orchestra program is Duluth. The Cloquet orchestra featured stringed instruments, as well as some percussion, horns and reed instruments.
“Any cut like this is very painful, so it is largely based on numbers,” Scarbrough said. “A quality program like orchestra is more than just about numbers; that is why we have kept that program for so long. However, when our school district has to start reducing a $1.4 billion projected deficit, numbers start to play a more important role as we try to keep intact those programs that serve the most students.”
Approximately 41 students in grades seven through 12 participate in the orchestra program. This includes 15 students at the middle school and 26 at the high school, averaging six to seven students per grade. By contrast, there are nearly 160 students participating in band, averaging between 26 and 27 students per grade.
The board’s decision has been met with some unrest by parents and students.
“I’m very, very disappointed in the whole thing,” said Cheryl Witeli, whose son Anthony plays bass in the seventh-grade orchestra. Kris Papas’s son Michael is now a sophomore and has been playing the violin since second grade. He owns his instrument and was able to take lessons when he was younger, but there are fewer opportunities these days.
“Orchestra is the only chance I get to play,” Michael said.
Orchestra students are now going to be left with holes in their schedules.
“They will be able to take music or other electives,” Scarbrough said. “We are exploring the possibility of offering orchestra students instrumental lessons if they want to transition to band.”
Anthony Witeli hopes to join the band as a saxophone player, but Michael Papas is unsure of what he will do. Already in his third year at Cloquet High School, he has fewer options.
“I can’t get in to band,” he said. Unless he decides to join the choir, Papas is now left to fill his open schedule with something he doesn’t “really want to do.”
Several alternatives are being discussed for students who want to continue to play.
“We are also exploring the possibilities of offering some kind of Community Education program for Cloquet, but that would not be during the school day,” Scarbrough said. However, the district currently rents the orchestra instruments, and no decision has been made whether the district will continue renting out the instruments or sell them. While Papas owns his violin, Witeli rents his bass and would need to purchase one if the instruments were sold.
Parents and students can contact Scarbrough with any questions or comments by e-mailing email@example.com or by calling 218-879-6721, extension 6202.
“We always want to hear from our students and parents,” he said.
Witeli already attended a school board meeting to ask the board to reconsider; she also wrote a letter to the editor in the Pine Journal.
“What really killed me is that this is a curriculum item,” Cheryl Witeli said. “How can they cut a curriculum item and still fund extracurricular