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School district outlines cuts to music program for elementary students

By Staff | Mar 10, 2009

Starting in 2010, schools in Lee County may no longer carry strings programs, an immersive musical training program for students, according to an announcement by Superintendent James Browder on Tuesday afternoon.
First-grade children are typically enrolled in strings throughout elementary school and can later transfer to one of the district’s music-specific schools such as Cypress Lake Middle.
The program features string directors who travel across the county meeting with students one-on-one and utilizing the Suzuki method — focusing on immersion and no fixed timetable to learn music.
Browder estimates there are fewer than 50 students enrolled in the strings program within eight schools, and that the program is costing the district $300,000 each year. He said no school bands or orchestras are being taken from any of the schools.
Even without the program in place, the superintendent said principals are finding ways to work around less funding. He said a “strings” person who is also certified to teach elementary students could be kept on to teach a subject.
“The principals are looking at every opportunity to bring opportunities into the building,” said Browder. “The issue of funding hits everywhere.”
During a budget update Tuesday, Browder described above-the-formula reductions proposed for 2010 for comprehensive high schools, art schools, IB programs and technology schools.
“We have to standardize everything we are doing, because if you don’t than you have to answer the question of how this school gets one thing and the other school doesn’t,” he said.
A number of other introduced measures are expected to save the district $22.8 million. Allocations for art, music and physical education will be cut in half, leaving only one unit per school. A physical education unit is mandated by the state, therefore art and music are more likely to be cut first.
For secondary schools, ESE support positions will no longer be flexible and principals will have to allocate those specific positions.
Some positions in elementary, middle and high school would see a standardization in the number of days they report to work. Counselors, for example, would work 196 days in elementary schools and 201 in secondary schools.
The amount of square footage covered by custodians will also be increased. Currently, a district custodian is responsible for 20,400 square feet. In 2010 that space could be increased by 15 percent.
School supply budgets may also be cut. Last year the district reported $4 million in unspent supply funds that Browder explained are to be reduced out of the total allocation. Furthermore, the state is cutting the amount of supply allocations per teacher from $55 to approximately $27.
In the meantime the district is waiting to see the results of the legislative session. Browder said the budget department could work with a $15 million shortfall, but if the number ballooned as high as $55 million that would require the loss of employees.
Proposed cuts to education aren’t final until the school board votes on the final budget.