School district finds extra funds for music programs

Music programs in the Greater Victoria School District won’t be cut as deeply as planned, after trustees voted in favour of allocating an extra $482,000 to music.

The board had looked at cutting Grade 6 and 7 band programs for middle schools as it looks to balance its 2021-22 budget, which currently has a $7-million deficit.

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Elementary strings and a ukulele program were also on the chopping block, for a total cut of more than $1 million to music programs.

Other areas earmarked for reductions included services for gifted students and meal programs, but it’s the proposed cuts to music that have generated the most controversy, including multiple protests by parents and students.

The board vote came after various district departments found savings of $1.1 million. Along with the extra money for music, another $400,000 is earmarked for additional educational assistants.

“We went back to all the departments and asked everybody to look really closely,” said board chair Jordan Watters, adding the additional money is good news, “but it doesn’t close the gap.”

The budget is scheduled for a final vote on May 17.

Watters said finding savings is a normal part of the process. “When we’re able to find funds like this, [we can] direct it where we think it is going to be most needed.”

Parent Karin Kwan, who has two children at Cedar Hill Middle School, said the additional money allocated for music amounts to only a portion of what is needed.

“It goes toward Band 6 and 7,” she said, adding it’s not clear whether it would mean a return to current levels of funding for grades 6 and 7 band.

Kristil Hammer, president of the Victoria Confederation of Parent Advisory Councils, said she’s not convinced the deficit is as high as the district says it is and thinks the board should go back and take another look.

“Before we look at which programs to cut, it would be useful just to have some clarity.”

Still, she welcomed the news about extra money for music.

“We love that they’re finding more funds.”

jbell@timescolonist.com

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