Fayette schools should expand SCAPA, report says

jwarren@herald-leader.comFebruary 13, 2013 

The Fayette County Public Schools should expand the School for the Creative and Performing Arts to accommodate more students and take other steps to expose students across the district to all arts disciplines, a new report recommends.

The report, submitted to the Fayette County Board of Education Monday night as an information item, lists broad outlines for boosting arts education for all students, for students especially interested in the arts, and for students who are gifted or have career aspirations in the arts.

The document does not provide specifics, such as whether SCAPA should get a new building or expand within its existing facilities. Any decision ultimately would be up to the school board.

But Superintendent Tom Shelton says he hopes to have some specific arts education proposals ready for school board members to consider by the end of this school year.

"Hopefully, we could be ready to start implementing some things as early as next year, depending on space, budget and other things we have to consider," Shelton said.

To read the complete report online go to www.fcps,net/vision and look under "Status Updates."

Monday's report grew in part from discussions between the school system and the city early last year about expanding arts education, possibly including a new K-12 arts high school in downtown Lexington.

The report was prepared by a 17-member arts-in-education working group composed of district staff members, principals, students, parents and residents.

Among other things, the panel recommended that Fayette Schools expose students to all arts disciplines; ensure that the arts are integrated into all content areas; and train teachers in merging the arts with their regular classroom instruction.

It says the district should provide more enrichment opportunities for students who are especially interested in the arts, including expanding SCAPA.

More arts instruction also should be offered to students who are gifted in the arts, the report says, as well as providing "professional performance and practice facilities" for such students.

SCAPA parents already have raised a little more than $1 million toward a performing arts center that the school has long wanted.

One specific recommendation from the working group calls for the creation of a new "District Arts in Education Coordinator" position, charged with leading a "systemic approach to arts education and integration." Generally, however, the report does not specify how to achieve the listed goals.

"These are ideas," said District Program Support Director Kim Lyon, a member of the working group. "What we did say is that we hope the board of education will embrace the recommendations, and in short order ask for an implementation plan. That's where you would really see the rubber hit the road, with some time frame for at least getting started."

Lyon said numbers indicate more arts education opportunities are needed in the district.

According to Lyon, nearly 300 students apply each year for SCAPA Bluegrass, which is open to grades 4-8. Only about 55 students can be admitted annually because of facilities limitations. That leaves many students on a waiting list, Lyon said, both at SCAPA Bluegrass and at SCAPA's high school program.

"If you don't look at anything else but the numbers, you can see that the demand is there," she said.

Lyon said parents also told the working group that even if their children do not get into SCAPA they want more arts opportunities available for them in schools across the district.

Asked whether SCAPA Bluegrass could expand within its existing building or require a bigger building, Lyon said, "That's the part we don't know yet ... but that is certainly something we will have to look at."

She said the working group did not focus on new buildings.

"Our thinking was that you don't need more buildings in order to accomplish many of these things," she said.

Shelton said much discussion will be needed before the district decides how to move ahead.

"It could mean SCAPA would be configured differently ... it could mean a new building, it could mean any of those," he said. "We have to look at what's the best choice for us."

Whatever route the district ultimately takes, Lyon said research shows that exposure to and participation in the arts helps stimulate students' creativity, teamwork and problem-solving skills in all subject areas.

"Whether it's the visual arts, working on a play, or being in the band, the arts teach those habits of the mind, and that translates into the classroom," she said.

Jim Warren (859) 231-3255

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