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Peoria teachers union calls for school district to beef up fine arts staffing

 Peoria Public Schools fine arts teachers introduce their five-year reform plan, Kids Play in Peoria, at a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Peoria Federation of Teachers headquarters on SW Washington Street.
Tim Shelley
/
WCBU
Peoria Public Schools fine arts teachers introduce their five-year reform plan, Kids Play in Peoria, at a press conference on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the Peoria Federation of Teachers headquarters on SW Washington Street.

The Peoria Federation of Teachers is laying out a new five-year plan they say can revitalize the eroded fine arts programming in Peoria Public Schools.

Heather Maughan is a teacher at Whittier Primary School, and head of the teachers' union's fine arts committee.

"We have been met with a district who is more concerned with filling in holes in a schedule, rather than producing sustainable programs," Maughan said. "We have seen a consistent reduction of the fine arts staff in our schools resulting in the diminishing of the fine arts programs in our schools, as well."

The plan, called "Kids Play in Peoria," calls for each K-4 building in the district to have one full-time music teacher and one full-time art teacher dedicated to general classes.

Every 5-8 building would allow students to choose an art elective, rather than taking a general class. Part-time orchestra, band, and choir instructors would work in two buildings each, with every school having its own full-time art teacher.

The plan calls for each high school to have one full-time band director, orchestra director, choir director, and a minimum of four visual arts teachers.

Using that criteria, Maughan said the majority of the district's schools aren't adequately staffed in the fine arts. She said it's a plan that builds from the bottom up, by introducing elementary school students to the general arts and allowing older children to specialize.

Right now, Maughan said staff are currently giving up their own time to give kids more fine arts instruction.

"They've been creative enough to work with their principals and carve out what they can in their schedules, a lot of times sacrificing their own prep periods or lunches or even time after school to still be able to pull those kids that do have an interest in the instrumental and choir programs," Maughan said. "But we would like to see it where that was included back in the school day."

Peoria Public Schools was able to use ESSER funds provided during the COVID-19 pandemic to secure new instruments, though Maughan said some of those are still on back-order.

A district spokesperson offered this statement in response to the union's plan and concerns.

"With the support of our Board, staff, and community, revitalizing the District's fine arts education is a continuous goal of Dr. Kherat. She is excited to usher in a more robust and dynamic fine arts program throughout the District," the spokesperson said.

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Tim is the News Director at WCBU Peoria Public Radio.