BROOKSVILLE — Band director Joe Harrin stood before the Hernando County School Board last week with an army of students clad in purple and gold at his back.
At issue: the future of Hernando High School's Royale Regiment, the county's oldest and most storied band program.
Due to changing start and end times to the school day across the district next year, Harrin said, he no longer will be able to pull double duty as band director at both Hernando and Parrott Middle School, the high school's primary feeder school, as he did this year.
With no replacement, the pipeline of students to Hernando would disappear, he said, pleading with the board to keep the middle school program alive.
"Without the Parrott Middle School band, in three years there will be nothing left of the Royale Regiment," Harrin told the packed School Board meeting.
Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the band.
"It is truly heartbreaking as I prepare for this celebration that I will be preparing for its funeral as well," he told board members.
District officials told those in attendance they are working to keep the Parrott program going, which might involve sharing an instructor with another school.
"There is no intention to take away band," superintendent Lori Romano said, adding later: "You have our commitment that we will continue to offer that at Parrott Middle School."
Parrott principal Brent Gaustad told the Tampa Bay Times on Monday that the school is in the process of allocating positions for 2014-15. He didn't expect a resolution anytime soon, saying the school will likely work to find a solution over the summer.
Parrott's band program has had declining enrollment in recent years. But Gaustad, a former first-chair trombone player, said the program is important for the school.
Many people, including students, alumni and members of the community, came to the School Board meeting to speak about the importance of the Royale Regiment, band programs and electives in general.
Hernando band alumnus Annie Kattenhorn said band provides a sense of place for a lot of students.
"We call ourselves a band family, and that's what we are," she told School Board members. "Many of these students do not have a family life at home, and this is where they are accepted. We welcome all — the long, the short and the tall."
Harrin said he was overwhelmed by the show of support.
"I was very proud of the way the parents spoke and the kids spoke," he said.
Danny Valentine can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1432. On Twitter: @HernandoTimes.