Schools in crisis: Elementary art to be “crafted,” not cut

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Editor’s note: This is the first of three stories looking at the fiscal challenges facing Lansing schools. Day 2: Playing out of tune. Day 3: Lansing School District restructured



The Lansing School District was hit by major changes in 2013 with cuts to art programs in Lansing Elementary Schools. 

These changes involved extreme budget cuts in art, music and physical education programs to save the school district more than $6 million, but would reduce 225 minutes of weekly planning time for classroom teachers.

The facts and the misconceptions:

Art programs would not be completely cut out of curriculum, but redesigned, said Patti Seidl, president of Lansing Schools Education Association. This means that art would still be taught – just not as a separate class subject. Instead it will be classroom teachers’ responsibility to find ways to integrate art into their classroom subjects.

“Our elementary level (classroom) teachers are already discussing how they will share those strengths,” Seidl said.

In Lansing’s elementary schools, art is taught for 60 minutes once a week, not daily.

Out of the entire program, 47 teachers will be laid off and/or reassigned to teaching positions they may be qualified and certified for in other subjects.

Seidl did not know the exact number of teachers who were not certified in other subjects. These are the teachers that will have a more difficult time seeking work in the district.

Wendy McWhorter, Henry H. North Elementary art teacher in Lansing is among them. She has  a masters degree in art education and a state endorsement that certifies her to teach  visual art in kindergarten through grade 12.

This video explains her story.

Wendy McWhorter Interview

It’s not just the art, music and physical education teachers who will suffer because of the policy shift. 

From the classroom:

Holly Daniels is a first-grade classroom teacher at Riddle Elementary School who will be losing all 225 minutes of weekly planning.  She’ll have to plan on weekends or   after school.

“I’m obviously not happy about losing planning time,” Daniels said. “It’s sort of been continuously asked to do more with less and we’ve been asked to teach more with less time to plan for it, but I don’t see this as a loss with my students.”

Daniels has been teaching in the district for 13 years. She said she does not think kids will miss out on art instruction and that it will be delivered successfully.

“The biggest misconception the public has is that there will be no art at all, and that’s not true,” Daniels said. “I already integrate a lot of art into my curriculum anyway. They’re losing it from the specialist once a week, so now they may get it from me twice a week.”

Daniels said one way she integrates art is through reading.

“One way I have kids respond to a book or a novel that we’ve read is to draw a picture or some kind of image based on that book,” Daniels said.

While some teachers like Daniels may already be a step ahead in interweaving art, others may have a more difficult time.

This video slideshow reports how some Michigan State University students studying elementary education viewed the changes.

Elementary Art

Teachers, children and families in the Lansing School District will have to learn to adjust to these changes as the following school year approaches in fall 2013.

“This is about our students in the Lansing School District, about our urban school. I have been able for years to provide them art once a week, and I know as an art teacher I go above and beyond on that. I take students on field trips so they get that extra experience. I don’t see those opportunities happening anymore, and I see that as a real loss.”                         – Wendy McWhorter

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