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Public outcry leads school board to reinstate theatre class at H.B. Beal

A theatre course at H.B. Beal Secondary School is being reinstated after a public outcry about the Thames Valley District School Board’s decision to stop offering the class.

Board originally cut class because enrolment had declined in the musical theatre program

The principal of H.B. Beal, Tracy Langelaan, says dropping the drama class isn't about targeting the musical theatre program or the performing arts -- it's about the numbers. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

A theatre course at H.B. Beal Secondary School is being reinstated after a public outcry about the Thames Valley District School Board's decision to stop offering the class.

The school's principal, Tracy Langelaan, told CBC News the decision was reversed because of concerns expressed by students, staff and community members.

"We were just really steadfast in looking forward to some problem solving and solutions so that we continue to support students and their achievement," she said. "It was a collaborative effort between myself and senior administration."

Beal Musical Theatre, known as BMT, is an audition-based three credit program in drama, dance and music. The 16 students who are taking BMT this semester found out Friday that their drama class would be dropped. 

Olivia Ho, a grade 12 student spoke out after a theatre class was cancelled in the Beal Musical Theatre program. (Liny Lamberink/CBC London)

Olivia Ho, a grade 12 student in the program, wrote a Facebook post over the weekend saying the performance arts were "under attack". Her post received more than 200 comments and nearly 2,000 shares.

Administration, citing reduced enrolment, said students had the option of blending drama and dance together in one period but would still be getting all three credits.

Langelaan has said the program had capacity for 29 students and that between 25-27 students were enrolled last year. She said there wasn't a change in the number of students who auditioned for the program ahead of the current semester, but that a decision to put on a cabaret this year impacted the number of students who kept the program in their timetables.

 "There was a decision not to produce a major theatre production this year. Some of the students who had originally auditioned and registered in the course had dropped the course," said Langelaan.

"Student interest in courses ebbs and flows from year to year and semester to semester. This was just an experience that fell upon BMT this year. This isn't to suggest that they'll experience this again."

Langelaan maintains that the decision to drop the course was not related to provincial funding.

"We hope that as we head into auditions for the next school year, we have renewed interest and significant participation for Beal Musical Theatre."

About the Author

Liny Lamberink

Reporter/Editor

Liny Lamberink is a reporter in London, ON. She can be reached at liny.lamberink@cbc.ca