Eau Claire Area School District Board Reinstates Elementary Art Class Time

Trevor Kupfer

A Lakeshore Elementary School art class in Eau Claire.
 
A Lakeshore Elementary School art class in Eau Claire.

Against the wishes of the administration, the Eau Claire school board unanimously voted to reinstate elementary art time to an hour a week. This decision will take effect in fall, and reverses an April 2009 vote that cut it down to 45 minutes and teachers down to 5.1 from 7.4. “It’s pretty clear we don’t recommend adding it at this time,” Superintendent Ron Heilmann said before the vote. “Not because we don’t need it or value it – we do. We think it has tremendous benefits. But there’s so much uncertainty out there. … The question is: do we want to add $140,000 to $168,000 to a multi-million dollar deficit?” In spring of 2009, one art teacher had 620 students (an amazing number at the time), a number now dwarfed by the roughly 850 each has now. It’s a lab class almost impossible to manage, and one in which gifted students receive the least face time. The vote, assuming it isn’t reversed when budget cuts happen in spring, will bring teaching positions up to about eight, and the price tag Heilmann alluded to depends on the benefits given to the staff. When the art time was cut, the 15 minutes was dedicated to intervention time so students falling behind on certain subjects can catch up through various activities. As for where they find the time for that now, Heilmann said, “We can’t add time to the school day, so maybe they miss part of the lesson of art, music, or gym to do that. We have extensive data, especially with the literacy part … on the effect it has.” While it does take art time back to an hour, it’s still short of the 90 minutes recommended by the Department of Public Instruction.

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