VSB band debate continues

Last year’s school board budget process had parents, students and members of the public sounding violins on the possible elimination of the Vancouver School Board’s band and strings program that operates at some elementary schools.

This year’s preliminary budget proposes offering band and strings to fewer grades and to try providing the program during prep time at select schools in September 2015, thereby decreasing the number of teachers needed. The preliminary budget also proposes increasing the user fee for the optional program from $2.50 to $5 per month. Instituting both measures would save nearly $420,000, the budget report states.

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Stephanie Yada, chair of the Jamieson Parent Advisory Council, told trustees at a public consultation on the preliminary budget Tuesday night that optional band or strings classes constitute the music program at many schools.

“It means [students] all know that as soon as they reach Grade 4, that could be them, too, no matter what their family’s income or their English language skills,” she said of strings at Jamieson.

Kathy Findlay, chair of the Queen Mary Parent Advisory Council, said interested parties need more time to discuss what should be done with band and strings before any budget decision is made. Findlay noted a report on the program was only released in February and she said its recommendations inadequately reflected all that was discussed in consultations.

Findlay said parents didn’t support moving to a model that sees band and strings provided during prep time.

“We encourage a more substantial increase in user fees, an example of $20 a month, providing any child with financial hardship can still participate in a program through some type of bursary,” she said.

Colleen Maybin, vice-president of the Coalition for Music Education in B.C., said her society of parents, educators and arts organizations doesn’t want to see band and strings offered to fewer grades, but it does like the idea of a prep time model that would see a music education specialist teaching at every elementary school.

An updated report on band and strings went to a VSB committee meeting Wednesday night. It concluded the proposed changes would eliminate the equivalent of three full-time positions, not the 3.8 previously reported. Instead of $420,000, proposed changes could save $341,000.

The report stated six elementary schools that already offer band or strings could try offering these sessions during prep time in September.

Public consultation on a revised version of the budget is to happen at the Vancouver School Board building at 1580 West Broadway, April 27, starting at 7 p.m.



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