LAFAYETTE — The School Board will consider allocating $165,000 at its upcoming Oct. 3 meeting for a long-standing arts integration program that was overlooked in this year’s budget process.
The 13-year-old program, called Primary Academic Creative Experiences, is administered by the Acadiana Center for the Arts. The program teams artists with classroom teachers for weekly arts lessons tied to the curriculum.
The program has been fully funded in the past by Title I federal grants. However, the program’s Title I funding was reduced to only $100,000 this year and the remaining $165,000 needed was not allocated in the school system’s budget process, said Paget Guidry, district arts/music academic specialist.
Major transitions within the central office also delayed detection of the funding error, said Guidry, who started her new supervisory job in July.
Guidry said the funding issue wasn’t disclosed by the department’s former supervisor and it went unnoticed until she sat down with Acadiana Center for the Arts staff to map out programming for the school year. She said money has been identified within the general fund to fully fund the program without cutting other programs.
The issue is only coming to the board now because of the time it took to identify additional funding and to follow district policy, which requires the funding approval to go before the board.
The arts program typically begins a few weeks into the school session and, if approved by the board, teaching artists could be in the classroom on Oct. 4, Guidry said.
“It’s a wonderful program,” Guidry said.
Last year, 17 teaching artists worked in 19 elementary schools in more than 200 classes weekly, said Bree Sargent, education director for the Acadiana Center for the Arts.
The arts center sent out an email blast to its patrons this week asking them to appeal to their respective district School Board representative to support the program.
School Board Vice President Hunter Beasley said the program is a “worthwhile expenditure,” and it has support from the public.
“I’ve gotten about 40 emails from parents who definitely want us to keep that program going,” he said.
As part of the arts integration program, teaching artists go into the classroom weekly to work with their assigned teachers on developing creative lessons related to concepts being taught by the classroom teacher, Sargent said.
“They work directly in the curriculum,” she said.
The teaching artist can devise a creative way for students to learn about measurement or mapping that could help the concept click in a mind of a student who is a more visual learner, Sargent said.
“The arts teach in such different ways and get at those different learners,” she said.
The program enriches academics for students, especially those who are visual or tactile learners, Westside Elementary Principal Lisa Thomas said.
“I think it stimulates their learning,” Thomas said. “If they can touch it, use it, manipulate it any way, it sticks with them for a longer period of time. They’re able to better retain it, I think. We see so many students that need every aspect of learning in order for them to truly comprehend.”
The impact of the program will soon be tracked through an assessment program that could begin in the next month, Sargent said. The assessment process will lead to “hard data” that could help lead to an expansion of the PACE program through other grant funding, she said.