by ALEXANDRA RETTER
Increasing the amount of time elementary students spend learning about music each week — in addition to increasing funding for music programs — was among the recommendations Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) Board members recently received about how to improve the district’s music programming. The recommendations arrived at the School Board table on January 21 after WAPS music teachers, students, and administrators, as well as community members, completed a study of the district’s music programming.
The study took place over the course of five meetings, the first of which was in October 2020. School Board members unanimously approved the study last June after voting to not reinstate fourth-grade orchestra, which the board had eliminated the previous year while making budget cuts.
“Through the teleconferencing, I think we were really able to get some things accomplished,” WAPS Superintendent Annette Freiheit said of the study. “It was limited, though, in what my initial vision of the work was going to be.”
Study group members suggested the district increase the amount of music instruction elementary students receive every week from 60 minutes to 90 minutes and increase elementary music staffing by the equivalent of 80 percent of a full-time teacher at a cost of $69,000. Districtwide, the study recommended WAPS increase its current music staffing by two full-time teachers at a cost of $172,000.
Music staff and WAPS Finance Director Kristy Millering are working on determining the budgeted funding for areas such as instrument repair, instrument replacement, sheet music for performances, and uniforms, Freiheit said. Whether WAPS will be able to find funding for those recommendations in next year’s budget remains to be seen, with key decisions coming up this spring. “I think that will be determined throughout our budgeting process, because we will have to look at, ‘If we increase in that area, what will decrease in another area?’”, Freiheit said in an interview.
The study group also recommended that the district continue to work on developing strategies for increasing inclusivity and diversity in music programming. The group did not have much time to address this topic, Freiheit stated. “I know that in the future, as they work through the curriculum areas, that there will be a lot more investigation … [and] considering more we can do to improve in that area,” Freiheit said.
Study group members recommended that WAPS find funding and grants for music programming and ways to help students go to performances at night when their guardians are not able to take them, as well.
Some recommendations may be more pragmatic than others, Freiheit said, and some suggestions may take longer than others to implement. “I’m excited for the future and using what we’ve learned to continue improving our music programs,” Freiheit said. “We have a high-quality staff who have a great passion for the music and for our community. And I just see us continuing moving forward.”