Saskatoon

Prairie Spirit School Division cuts band program

Faced with the persistent back beat of budget trouble, the Prairie Spirit School Division is singing the blues about the future of its band program.

Division includes dozens of schools near Saskatoon

The Prairie Spirit School Division is cancelling its band program.

Faced with the persistent back beat of budget trouble, the Prairie Spirit School Division is singing the blues about the future of its band program.

Traditional band programs will fall silent and be replaced with a "broader" music education program. The band program is in place at 17 of its 45 schools. 

"Due to the major financial shortfall being experienced by our school division, we are faced with tough decisions regarding the allocation of available funds," stated a letter to parents from the school division, which includes dozens of schools in the rural area near Saskatoon. 

That tough decision, in this case, is canceling band and replacing it with music classes that the division hopes will appeal to more students. The move away from a band program will be phased in slowly so that high school students who are currently in the program will be able to complete the cycle.

In a statement issued by the school division this afternoon, it said the programming changes are the direct result of a $7.1 million provincial funding shortfall. 

"We value the importance of music education and wish for all of our students to feel engaged through music," the statement read. "In making these changes, the school division hopes to positively impact the music education of a greater number of students." 

Band programs in elementary schools will no longer receive money from the school division beginning in the fall.

Anger over cuts

Aspiring young musicians and their parents are reeling with news of the sweeping cuts to band programs.

Laura Matheson, who has two boys going to school in Aberdeen, said she is moving her kids out of the Prairie Spirit School Division because of the cuts to the band program. (Madeline Kotzer/CBC)
Laura Matheson, who has two boys going to school in Aberdeen, said she plans to move her children out of the school division because of the cuts.

"I haven't yet had the heart to tell my eldest that this is going on, because he has had his heart set on playing the trumpet in band since he was five — so he is not going to be too happy about that."

She said there's been a lot of uproar in the community about the school division's decision. Since parents got the news last night, more than 900 people have signed a petition to reverse the school division's decision.

"[The school division is] still trying to figure out how do we provide music programming — they've got some good ideas in the memo that was sent out, but quite frankly, I would like to see the programs funded at current levels and not cut."

The school division said it is planning meetings with parents to discuss the changes. 

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