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Washington County Schools arts program will expand

January 29, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Three Washington County schools will get enriched arts programs next year as part of the school system's plans for a downtown arts school, school officials told the Hagerstown City Council Tuesday.

During a joint meeting between the Washington County Board of Education and the City Council, Roger Giles, schools director of funded and special programs, said that based on the success of the Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence, the school system plans to expand its arts offerings at one elementary school in the south end to be determined and at Northern and Western Heights middle schools next year.

The Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence was started this school year as the school system's first magnet school for academically gifted students.

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Schools spokeswoman Carol Mowen said E. Russell Hicks Middle School and North Hagerstown High School will be added in the 2004-05 school year.

The arts emphasis at those schools would be the foundation for a separate arts campus, Hagerstown School for the Arts, which has been proposed for an undisclosed downtown location, Giles said.

"We're very appreciative that you've considered the core of Hagerstown," Mayor William Breichner said.

Three arts pilot programs, Advanced Ceramics and Sculpture offered at Washington County Technical High School and Beginning Dance and Honors Jazz Band offered at South Hagerstown High School, will begin this semester.

Giles said school officials have looked at other arts schools as models to figure out how a Hagerstown arts school would be funded. For example, he said, the Baltimore School for the Arts is funded largely through endowments.

Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said the school system eventually could look into setting a tuition so the school could pull students from other counties.

She said arts integrated into regular classrooms improve test scores. The Baltimore School for the Arts has the highest SAT scores of any school in the state, Morgan said.

School Board Member Russell Williams asked why a school for the gifted should take priority over other basic school programs.

School Board President Bernadette M. Wagner said, "It's not going to take the place of good basic instruction."

Rob Hovermale, resource teacher for visual and performing arts, said the school system hopes to integrate classes like film analysis, choreography and wind ensemble into the chosen arts expansion schools.

"It will happen only when we have significant funds for the program," Giles said.

Breichner said the city has heard good things about the program at Fountaindale from the community.

"We look forward to any support we can give you," he said.

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