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Fourth-grade orchestra in De Pere on the Chopin block

By Lee Reinsch

DE PERE – On Monday, April 19, the De Pere school board put on hold a vote to end the orchestra program for fourth-graders, because some board members wanted more information.

Foxview Intermediate School currently offers orchestra to its fourth- and fifth-grade students.

The question of ending the orchestra option for fourth-graders came up over the past year when orchestra, as well as other activities, could not take place in-person.

In an effort to keep orchestra teachers, who also teach at other schools, from having to travel back and forth among multiple sites, Foxview postponed both fourth- and fifth-grade orchestra for a year.

The hiatus gave program leaders a chance to take a big picture look at orchestra for fourth-graders.

At a meeting earlier this month, Andy Bradford, Foxview principal, updated board members on the situation.

He said due to the scarcity of resources and the fact a high percentage of students who enter orchestra in fourth grade end up dropping out or not signing up for it in fifth grade, the administrative team and orchestra teachers recommended the district’s fourth- through 12th-grade orchestra program start at the fifth-grade level.

The change would enable the district and intermediate school to give fifth graders more consistency and a stronger foundation in orchestra, instead of dividing resources among two grades.

If approved by the school board, the change would go into effect for the 2021-22 school year.

The board was expected to vote on the matter this week, but board member Jeff Mirkes said some comments by fellow board member Mark Meneau at the last meeting gave him a chance to reflect on the issue.

“It gave me pause to consider our messaging,” he said.

Bob Mathews asked if the board could see some data and numbers on the program.

Superintendent Ben Villarruel said yes, but data would reflect the 2019-20 school year, because orchestra wasn’t held in-person this year.

Board President David Youngquist said he’d been thinking over the issue, too, and had been prepared to vote not to end fourth-grade orchestra.

“One of the things I reflected on was that we talked a lot about the reasons why the fourth-grade program won’t work and why it can’t work,” Youngquist said. “But we didn’t talk about what it would take to make it work. Let’s talk about what we would need for it to continue and be successful.”

In other business, the board voted to hire Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates to assist with the district’s superintendent search process.

Student recognition

Students were also recognized for their achievements in math and improv, and for qualifying for national competitions:

• Jeremy Li, an eighth-grader at De Pere Middle School/Virtual Learning Academy, is the first student in the De Pere school district to qualify for the National MathCounts Championship.

At the virtual state championship in March, he placed third out of 42 competitors.

He and three other students from Wisconsin will team up for the virtual 2021 National MathCounts Championship.

• A team of seventh-graders from De Pere Middle School qualified for the Global Destination Imagination competition to be held virtually in June.

The team placed second in the improvisational category at the state level competition.

The group includes students Anna Crabbe, Ainsley McKee, Asher Kulman, Craig Gehlhoff and Sam Hornseth.

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