News Column

Performing arts returning to York City schools

May 9, 2014

By Erin James, The York Dispatch, Pa.



May 09--A popular York City School District program that once attracted students from other parts of York County will return to the district's high school next year.

Through a partnership with the Strand-Capitol Performing Arts Center, students in grades 9-12 will be offered elective courses in acting, dance, creative writing, voice, directing and stage management.

Superintendent Eric Holmes at a meeting Thursday announced the return of the William Penn Senior High School Performing Arts Institute.

The district's school board cut the program in 2011 to save money.

"It's about time it's coming back," Holmes said Thursday. "We need it, and it's something we should have kept."

Holmes said he is hoping the promise of a performing-arts program will also grab the attention of students at New Hope Academy Charter School, which will close in June. New Hope implemented a performing-arts program shortly after the district cut its own three years ago.

Program: Holmes said the institute will resemble the previous program but will be "bigger and better."

The district will use its own performing-arts space as well as classrooms and dance space at the Strand, he said.

"We'd love to have a huge enrollment in that program," he said.

Details are still being worked out, he said. The district's school board has not yet passed its 2014-15 budget but must do so by June 30.

Holmes said he hopes to hire music, dance, voice and drama coaches, who will be paid by stipends similar to sports coaches.

Ken Wesler, the Strand's executive director, will present more information about the plan at Monday's board meeting, Holmes said.

Few attend: Thursday's meeting was designed as a "town hall" for parents, particularly those with children in New Hope this year who are considering the district.

But attendance turned out to be only school board members, district staff and reporters.

Holmes said he intends to continue reaching out to parents regardless. A second town hall meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday, May 29, at the high school.

"We're hoping that we can show that this is a good place to send their kids," Holmes said. "It's not the same district that it was when they left."

Holmes held Thursday's meeting at Hannah Penn, a former middle school that will re-open as a K-8 school in the fall. That will require some redistricting, and parents should come to the May 29 meeting with questions, concerns and suggestions, he said.

The district is aiming to notify parents of new geographical boundaries for its seven K-8 schools before the academic year ends, he said.

To ease the transition for former New Hope students and district students affected by redistricting, the district will implement a mentoring program, Holmes said.

Each student new to the building will be assigned to a staff member who will meet with the student weekly.

"It's someone for them to talk to, someone for them to go to to share concerns," Holmes said. "We want a soft place for kids to land."

-- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.

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Source: York Dispatch, The (PA)