Band parents tune up on BoE plans for cuts

Music education in the lower grades is popular with many parents, the Fayette County Board of Education was reminded Monday night.

Eliminating fifth-grade band or orchestra and repurposing assistant band directors at the county’s five high schools was on the meeting agenda, and band parents showed up in strength — even a band director from neighboring Coweta County.

The school board meeting room during recent meetings where budgets and school closures were hot topics was full to overflowing again Monday night. The large crowd attending the meeting included a wealth of parents and students advocating during public comments for the school board to reconsider the measure and find other ways to save on expenses for next year.

All 19 people speaking during public comments requested that board members understand that eliminating fifth-grade band and orchestra would have a negative effect on a child’s future.

Some speakers suggested that board members consider cutting back on a portion of some athletic programs.

If fifth-grade bands or orchestras are eliminated, the high school assistant band directors currently working part-time with those students would transition that time to the county’s middle schools to help teach beginning band students, the board heard.

One of the speakers was Alan Armstrong, band director at Northgate High School in Coweta County. Armstrong said he had been in a similar situation where assistant band directors had been eliminated and then reinstated a number of years later. The cuts took a toll on both band directors and the schools’ ability to compete in venues outside the school system. 

If approved and depending on how the band and orchestra programs are restructured, the move could also eliminate up to five full-time equivalents (FTEs) and save as much as $320,000.

Whatever the outcome, or even a variation of the proposal, a decision on the topic is expected to come on April 29.