Wednesday morning the district's music department was made aware that the part-time position open at Victory Elementary School will not be filled.
The spot has been open since Victory Elementary music teacher Robyn Lohr passed away in February after battling cancer.
As with all news like this, word about the music department spread fast and in some cases inaccurately over social media.
Somewhere along the line apparently word started spreading that the school board was cutting the music program all together.
"We are not cutting the music program," school board president Sabrina Backer said Wednesday afternoon. She explained that the district is not replacing the part-time teacher position, not dismantling a beloved program. Lohr was a .6 part time teacher meaning her position was roughly 60 percent of full-time.
The choir performs last week at their spring concert.
With the change, the majority of the work load will be shifted to full-time Sandycreek teacher Suzi Beach, but it is unclear at this time how the rest of the music staff will be affected and what each current teacher will be responsible for at what time of the day or at which school. Since Lohr's death, high school band director Steve Johnston has been filling in a couple times a week at Victory.
Johnston and high school chorus director Sarah Gilbert are concerned about the cut for sure.
Johnston said music classes will still be taught but with less teachers and subsequently less time able to give to the co-curricular activities, like concert bands and choirs. He praised the district for always being "very supportive of our music program and its teachers." But he does have concerns that the level of student involvement and quality of the program could suffer in the long-term.
Franklin performs higher than many schools in engaging the student population in the music program, according to Johnston. "We always talk about the 10 percent rule," he said. Most school district music programs engage about 10 percent of the enrollment. Johnston says Franklin averages closer to 20 percent regularly and claims it's been as high as 25 percent of the school population recent years. The marching band alone is regularly over 100 members, though it co-ops with Rocky Grove for some of those members.
"If elementary music is seen as being under-valued, or the teacher is stretched beyond capacity, then the students see that too. They see that this isn’t something that’s valued," Gilbert said. "That starts to get into really dangerous territory because music is absolutely essential for the development of a young person in so many ways."
They said being a strong advocate for the program means letting everyone what is going on so they can voice the concerns they might have over the change. "I could talk all day about this all day," Gilbert said.
When asked if any other vacant positions were being eliminated or if there were any other cuts, Backer said she didn't know of any at this time but said that is a question for the school administration to answer. A message left for acting Superintendent Pat Gavin late Tuesday afternoon was not returned as of the posting of this story.
Franklin School board meets at 7 p.m. Monday, May 16, for a work session in the high school library.