Brett McFadden & Kelly Rhoden: High school arts remain a top priority
Brett McFadden & Kelly Rhoden
Protecting and expanding visual and performing arts in our high schools remains a top priority of the Nevada Joint Union High School District and all of its high schools. Arts, music, band, dance, photography, ceramics and drama remain key components to the district’s wide ranging high school curriculum.
In recent weeks, there have been concerns expressed as to the future of these courses in the district — specifically at Nevada Union High School. We hope to shed additional light on this matter and address these concerns.
Providing an in-depth and robust set of course offerings to our students is, and always has been, a top priority of the Nevada Union High School and the district. As such, our high schools continue to provide a robust set of electives, clubs, sports and course offerings that many high schools in the state no longer provide. Visual and performing arts are a critical component to our core mission.
However, we must achieve these goals while, at the same time, meet requirements of state law. Further, we must accomplish those components of our core mission within the fiscal and resource constraints facing the district. Finally, this must be balanced against the constantly changing educational and social-emotional needs facing our students.
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The implementation of new freshman course offerings in health and college/career readiness in the upcoming school year has been a four-year discussion. At Nevada Union, offering health education as part of freshman PE courses diluted the effectiveness of both PE and health instruction combined. Further, preparing students for healthy lives — physically, mentally and socially — is a critical need in light of increasing social and emotional challenges facing our adolescents.
Bringing on the Get Focused, Stay Focused course for the second freshman semester is a way to offer greater career and college readiness to all students in the district. This is another area the state has mandated that the district needs to provide greater focus and resources. This curriculum and course was vetted by district teachers and administrators, and has shown great success in other districts.
Freshman students continue to be strongly encouraged to enroll in elective classes that bring meaning and excitement to their educational experience in high school. All freshman students should take advantage of their elective opportunities and be involved with performing and fine arts programs, or any other available elective they feel connects them to school.
There appears to be a misconception about the space and time in students’ schedules to make all this happen in only six periods a day. Beginning in the 2019-20 school year, freshman students will be required to take English, Math, PE, and Health/GFSF. They then have the opportunity to choose two other courses in the following areas:
Elective classes: Performing & Fine Arts
Career Technical Education classes: Agricultural classes, culinary, wood, auto, yearbook, leadership, engineering pathways, etc.
In preparing for next year’s new freshman course requirements, Nevada Union added a zero period Freshman PE class to its schedule for the 2019-20 school year so that students have even more opportunities. This class has already been filled with 45 incoming freshman taking advantage of this new opportunity.
Projected freshman enrollment in all visual and performing arts courses at Nevada Union in 2019-20 is similar to last year’s numbers at this time. The same is true at Bear River High School. But as the district’s overall enrollment has declined consecutively over the past 17 years, so too has enrollment in all courses and electives. The district is roughly half the size it was 25 years ago.
Despite the challenges associated with declining enrollment, performing and fine arts remain key components of the district’s instructional program and elective course offerings. They are also sources of community pride and engagement. The district has no intention of seeing these programs be anything less than the stellar programs they have been for so many years.
Earlier this year, district teachers and administrators launched a cooperative effort to explore ways to develop an enhanced district-wide course schedule that provides even more course offerings for students. This effort is underway. We expect the workgroup will provide the district’s Board of Trustees a set of recommendations that are effective and affordable for implementation in the 2020-21 school year.
Visual and performing arts are, and will remain, a top priority for Nevada Union High School and the district as a whole.
Brett W. McFadden is Nevada Joint Union High School District superintendent and Kelly Rhoden is principal at Nevada Union High School.
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