Letter: Barrington needs to let kids play music together now

Posted 3/16/21

To the editor:

We are Parents of Note, an organization that supports and advocates for the music programs of Barrington Public Schools. Like many programs, Band and Chorus throughout the district …

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Letter: Barrington needs to let kids play music together now

Posted

To the editor:

We are Parents of Note, an organization that supports and advocates for the music programs of Barrington Public Schools. Like many programs, Band and Chorus throughout the district have been greatly impacted by the pandemic. Our children have been diligent and patient and we have not seen any spread of Coronavirus in music classes. Meanwhile, sports teams have been approved to practice and compete, as allowed by the State and District. Yet our music teachers and student musicians continue to wait.

It is wonderful that many in Barrington have been able to send their kids to play medium risk sports like ice hockey and basketball. The decision to allow interscholastic sports to meet appropriately occurred under the guidelines of RIDOH & RIDE.

On Feb. 15, RIDE & RIDOH released new guidance allowing musicians to perform indoors if masked and 6 feet apart. This guidance is on the RIDE website, on pages 21 and 22 of a document called Back to School RI Guidance Document (https://bit.ly/3uSGqcR).  We urge you to take a moment to familiarize yourself with it. Current Barrington allowance is outdated, unnecessarily restrictive, and allows for almost no student participation at the middle school and elementary level due to room sizes. It is the same as telling a basketball team that only 3 players are allowed on the court at a time.

Currently, the Barrington School District is not allowed this new guidance. The lack of action by school administration, the school committee, and the re-entry committee, reveals an inequity that many arts families have felt for a long time. Our schools do not hold the arts in the same high regard as athletics. 

It has been reported that during the 2020/2021 school year there has been a 70% reduction in state-wide music participation. This is a decline that will take years to reverse and we need to take action now.

In a January call to action published in papers around the state, Dr. David Neves, from URI, RIMEA, and The RI Philharmonic Music School, expressed the importance of the arts clearly.

Like sports, music performance is not merely an “enhancement.” For all students, and especially for those 25,000 students who were playing and singing in schools last year, their bands, choruses, and other music groups were often the most important, meaningful parts of their school days, often providing a path to the future via scholarships and academic opportunities. 

Now that RIDE and RIDOH have published updated guidance for music performance, it is time that Barrington allows more kids the opportunity to play music together.  Not in a month. Not in two weeks. Now. Other Rhode Island schools have already jump-started their programs, leaving the music programs at Barrington, the #1 school district in the state, behind.

We are glad that RIDE and RIDOH have determined that school sports may continue. Student athletes are benefitting from the social and emotional fulfillment achieved through teamwork, self-confidence, and overcoming adversity. Student musicians can learn these same things. The current district policy needs to be updated so it is more equitable to music students and reflects the updated guidance.

Sincerely,

Elaine Van Leer

Barrington

Ms. Van Leer is Barrington Parents of Note President.

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