BROOKSVILLE — The Hernando County School District has come up with a solution that will allow students at the two high schools that have lost music programs to continue playing and singing:
Let them transfer.
Officials at Nature Coast Technical High and Central High sent out a message last week informing students who were planning to participate in band or chorus that they could switch schools.
Ordinarily, students would not be allowed to transfer schools at this time of year unless faced with some sort of personal hardship.
"We saw that in this community the arts are important," said Jamie Young, the district's executive director of teaching, learning and technology, and a member of the district's new music task force. "Students should have the choice to participate in band and chorus. We created an opportunity."
The deadline to apply for a transfer to Weeki Wachee High, Springstead High or Hernando High is Thursday.
In order to transfer to one of those high schools, students must enroll in the music program. Any student who opts out of music will be returned to his or her zoned school.
As of Wednesday morning, 15 students had requested transfers, including 10 to Springstead and two each to Weeki Wachee and Hernando. One student didn't indicate a preference.
The decision follows a recommendation by the music task force, organized by superintendent Lori Romano over the summer to deal with declining enrollment in music and the recent elimination of programs at some schools. The district's music programs have been a hot topic this summer.
Parents, students and community members have come in large numbers to recent School Board meetings to voice concerns about the state of music in the county and the elimination of the music program at Central High School.
They also objected strongly to the possible elimination of band at Parrott Middle School after the school lost its band instructor for the coming school year. Parrott has since hired a replacement.
Weeki Wachee principal Troy LaBarbara said he is extremely pleased with the decision to allow chorus and band students to transfer to other schools.
"It's the right decision," he said. "They've done right by students."
He said students, especially at Central, didn't know that the program would be eliminated for the 2014-15 school year in time to request a normal transfer.
"We should be able to make the concession if that's the case," he said.
Young said the district's task force wanted to ensure that every secondary student has access to a music program. Now, the focus is turning to strengthening and supporting music programs at the secondary level as well as supporting elementary schools provide greater music offerings.
"When you don't have it in elementary, it affects middle and that affects high school," she said.
In the long term, Young said, the task force will look at what it would take to set minimum music staffing requirements at all levels.
Contact Danny Valentine at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1432. Follow @HernandoTimes.