Potential Cuts Don't Paint a Pretty Picture; Art, Music Teachers Warn of Effects of Budget Shortfall in Duval Schools

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Byline: LAURA BROCCO

Jennifer Snead's fifth-grade art students didn't take their eyes off her as she explained how to make a shark's body out of a slab of clay.

When Adwin Ashman started having trouble getting his piece of clay into the form he wanted, classmate Shaun Purvis helped Adwin mold his shark just as he wanted it. Through trial and error, Adwin was learning.

"I've learned about different forms and shapes and colors like sepia and how to mix them together," Adwin said.

Snead as well as other music and art teachers in Duval County's public schools are on the list of possible cuts to compensate for the county's proposed budget shortfall of $139 million. Art would still be taught in school but by students' regular teachers. Decisions are expected in late spring.

Jack Matthews, the district's specialist for visual arts, dance and theater, said the quality of the programs will be "greatly diminished" if teachers who are not certified end up having to teach the arts.

"It's like asking an art teacher to teach math skills to kids," Matthews said.

Snead said if art is cut from schools, the consequences could be drastic.

"Because of where America is headed with technology, kids are going to have to use their whole brain, not just the logistical side, to be successful in America," Snead said.

A three-year study by The Arts Education Partnership showed that involvement in the arts triggers the right side of the brain, which is used in making connections, problem solving and developing social skills. The study also showed that schools that have art in the curriculum also have higher attendance and better behavior.

Some argue that art class gives kids a break from the school day, but Snead views her art class as time for her students to apply what they've been learning.

"Take clay for example," Snead said. "It's science, because they [students] learn that it's made through erosion. It's social studies, because every culture has used clay at some point, and it incorporates language arts because it's expressive."

April Laymon's music class at Beauclerc Elementary School is in the same boat as Snead's class because of potential budget cuts. She says that because of how valuable music is in learning, removing it would be a disservice to students.

Music is a way for people to express themselves. With no music program, students who have trouble expressing themselves in words would lose an avenue of expression that suits them, Laymon said. …