San Diego schools to expand performing arts, music programs

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SAN DIEGO – San Diego Unified School District officials Monday unveiled a plan to expand access to dance, music, theater and visual arts instruction for students.

The proposal also includes the acquisition of musical instruments, collaborations with city arts institutions and allowing more students to attend arts magnet schools. The Strategic Arts Education Plan is a far cry from the recession years, when arts programs were annually on the fiscal chopping block.

“The new instruments, band uniforms and sheet music arriving in our schools this year are really only the beginning,” said Russ Sperling, the district’s director of visual and performing arts.

“Over the next five years, we plan to promote literacy, innovation, creativity and excellence in the arts to change the lives of our students,” Sperling said at a news conference. “It is a citywide effort, and we are grateful to have the planning participation of every leading arts institution in the city.”

The plan was developed over seven months, with input from teachers, parents, students and representatives from city arts organizations, including the San Diego Opera, Symphony, Ballet, Art Museum, the La Jolla Playhouse, the Old Globe Theatre and many others, according to district officials. It’s set for approval at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.

“Communities across San Diego are hungry for more arts programming,” said Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne.

“That is why we voted to provide students with more than 900 new instruments, new band uniforms and visiting artist teachers in the budget we passed this year,” Whitehurst-Payne said. “I am confident we will do even more to bring high quality arts programs to every school in every neighborhood.”

If the plan is passed, full implementation is expected to take three to five years, with funding dependent on balancing other district financial needs.