ADAMS TWP — A petition to return the Mars School District art program to the status it held before last year’s budget cuts has 276 online signatures.
Peter Black, a science teacher at Mars High School, said the idea for a petition came up at a Dec. 15 meeting between teachers and parents during a brainstorming session on action to improve the district.
At the end of the 2011-12 school year, art teachers at the middle school and high school retired. Because they would not be replaced in the current school year due to budget cuts, an art teacher from the elementary school moved to the middle school and a primary school art teacher moved to the high school.
Two high school art teachers now pick up art classes at the elementary school in addition to their high school classes. At the primary center, first-grade classroom teachers now teach art.
“The combination of those movements created the crisis the petition is referring to,” Black said.
The petition, which is at www.change.org, asks the school board to “restore the art program throughout the Mars School District to its level before the 2012-13 budget cuts,” and to “pass a 2013-14 budget that once again makes us competitive with other school districts.”
The petition goes on to advocate a full art program by stressing the importance of art in a district’s core curriculum, in business, and in national wealth generation.
The petition acknowledges that today’s school districts face tight budgets, but said the impact of Mars’ art cuts have been “negative at all grade levels.”
Black said teachers, parents and art students feel the cuts will prevent students planning on a career in the arts from completing a professional portfolio and decrease their chances of being accepted into the colleges of their choice.
Joanne Zediker, who is the mother of a Mars junior, said although Mars is much smaller than many surrounding districts, high school students over the years have earned as many or more awards than their larger counterparts.
Zediker also said students who plan to apply to colleges and universities for art majors are struggling to create the professional portfolios their predecessors have because the high school only has art teachers four days per week. She said many colleges are now requiring a strong art background even in non-art majors.
“(Students) are going to be in trouble when they try to get into the schools of their choices,” Zediker said.
Black said he is not fond of petitions, but he hopes to get at least 500 signatures to present to the school board as it begins the budget process in the spring. But he hopes the board finds a way to reinstate the art program as members consider expenses for 2013-14.
“I’m hoping this whole (petition) will be completely unnecessary,” he said.
The school board voted this month to rehire one of two high school guidance counselors furloughed last year because of budget cuts.