Winona area schools target arts and hockey in cuts

School officials in the Winona, Minn., area are taking an ax to the school budget and, not surprisingly, the arts are being targeted. The arts have a tough time in schools anymore.

When it comes to the arts, life imitates.

The district is proposing $1.7 million in budget cuts and the plan is the elimination of music lessons, theater productions and arts staff, the Winona Daily News reports.

The music and theater kids are putting up a fight, as most music and theater kids do in these situations.

“Music impacts people’s lives extremely. If you take the core pieces away, like rehearsals or staff, it will all collapse like Jenga. Don’t take away that Jenga piece,” sophomore Nicole Banicki told the school board last night during a listening session.

The district has already rescinded a plan to cut all music programs, but it still intends to torch the fourth grade orchestra and eliminate two or three staff positions in the music department, which will probably eliminate music lessons, according to one teacher.

Several students who turned out Tuesday said music lessons are the best part of their day. Lessons can be a sanctuary during tough times, they said, and the release of playing an instrument helps them stay engaged in other classes.

“No matter how badly I did on that test, or how badly I’m doing in another class, music gives me a moment to relax and have fun,” said junior Abigail Thiele, who’s in band and choir.

Malachi Draper, another student, said music makes him feel human.

And Sayna Parsi, who attends Winona State University, said music helped her fit in and feel at home when she first came to the school district.

“When I moved here in fourth grade, I didn’t really know English,” she said. “I only made friends through music.”

“There’s almost nothing you could do that would convince me not to enroll my kids in public school,” one parent said. “Gutting music might be one of them.”

The district is considering closing several schools and its plan still includes eliminating the hockey program for boys and girls or cutting the girls’ program for just one year. It says it wouldn’t be a Title IX violation because so few girls are interested in playing.

The cuts (available here) could also include the elimination of a school safety officer, and increased fees for sports.

They’ll be finalized next week.