HUNTLEY – A combination of grants and shrinking elementary enrollment will allow middle school students at District 158 the opportunity to learn and play orchestra for the first time.
Administrators from the Huntley school district are eyeing the 2015-16 school year to start a gradual rollout of the district’s first middle school orchestra program, which would initially put brass, wind, string and percussion instruments into the hands of sixth-graders at Marlowe and Heineman middle schools.
The district used a portion of a grant it received a few years ago to purchase the music stands, chairs and other equipment to furnish the program, while middle schoolers will rent most of the instruments from area providers, said Chief Academic Officer Mike Moan.
“It completes what we have,” Moan said. “We have huge band and choir numbers at both middle schools, and there has been a push from district staff and parents to add orchestra.”
The new fine arts program also won’t require officials to spend additional money on personnel.
Smaller enrollment at the lower elementary grades will allow officials to move elementary music teachers into the middle schools by the first year of the orchestra rollout, Moan said. The gradual expansion allows the class of sixth-graders in the 2015-16 school year to take orchestra throughout their middle school careers. After the initial year, orchestra will expand to the seventh-grade level in 2016-17 and then to the eighth-grade level in 2017-18.
To prepare for the new program, the district plans to offer an introductory orchestra course this summer for incoming fifth-graders to help fine-tune the rollout, Moan said. A new fine arts program reinforces the district’s educational mission in an era where music and art programs usually are the first victims of school cutbacks, he said.
“Orchestra is another way for students to express themselves and become connected,” Moan said. “It’s a part of being a well-rounded student.”