Line up

The library at Hutchinson Middle School was packed two years ago as District 423 residents protested possible cuts to middle school art.

As Hutchinson Public Schools considers a third year of budget cuts, there may be a silver lining: art.

Two years ago when the district reviewed nearly $1 million in cuts, it drew public outcry, namely due to the removal of art at Hutchinson Middle School. A meeting to discuss the cuts when they were proposals drew a crowd of 70 parents, teachers and students, many of whom shared how important art had been in their lives.

This past week when the School Board had to review a fresh set of proposed cuts, members were told adjustments made it possible to bring middle school art back. With the proposed cuts, the middle school will lose one full-time position in English, science and math due to declining enrollment, and the high school will lose a position equal to a quarter of full time.

Middle School Principal Todd Grina said the school staff knew they wanted to bring back art as soon as it was possible.

“It’s an important class, and it’s important to give the students that creative outlet they were missing,” he said. “To add that back is another opportunity to connect with kids.”

The budget has not received final approval from the School Board, and the schedule is not finalized, but the preliminary plan is to have art in seventh grade. As was the case when art was cut, it will be a one-trimester offering for students, with the other two trimesters for family and consumer science, and health.

The cut of middle school art left a gap between art at the elementary and high school levels, though an after-school program was launched to help.

Art teacher Michelle Jordahl told the School Board two years ago that she took pride in the program she had built at the middle school over 26 years, and she had seen art help students with critical thinking, self-discipline and experimentation.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to have the arts added back to the middle school ... that’s my program,” she said Tuesday, noting that she was fresh out of college when she started the program in 1990. “The big picture is those kids need art so badly with all the mental health issues these days. If they’re not into sports, that’s their outlet to be creative. It’s powerful that way.”

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