News Views: The band plays on

The local school district is proposing to cut the elementary band teaching position, among other items, to help reduce a $2.2 million deficit.

But none of the others, including crossing guards and school supplies, have created such a stir.

More than 50 parents and students rallied outside the school district office on Wednesday to save the band teacher position.

To be clear, the school district is not proposing to cut the program, just relocate it to high schools, so elementary students would have to travel to attend band lessons. At what time hasn’t been determined, only that band teachers at secondary schools are able to deliver this program because, due to declining enrollment, some are currently teaching other courses.

This is how the elementary band program used to be offered as recently as two years ago.

Nobody, including district superintendant Jan Unwin, wants to discontinue the elementary band teacher position, currently filled by Ed Dumas. It was created for a reason, because music has value, enhances learning, and is fun. Having  it delivered to grades 6 and 7 students at their elementary schools encourages more to join, gives them a head start and helps feed the band programs at local high schools.

Will fewer take part if it is not offered at elementary schools? It would be less convenient.

It is no less important. However, by proposing to cut the teaching position, the school district is saying that having an instructor go from school to school, delivering the elementary band program, is a luxury it can no longer afford.

Trimming expenses is the most difficult part of a school trustee’s responsibilities, a course followed each year, accompanied by cries for more provincial funding. More money does come each year, but more of it goes to the very people who teach programs like elementary band. And every year some of them lose their jobs.

It would nice if it were different, if there was more money, and maybe this year there will be, as an election is expected in November. But such windfalls are as fleeting as elections themselves, and things return to normal.

At budget time, there always seems to be tears.

And the band plays on.

– The Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News