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Blue Valley parents fear fine arts curriculum may be diminished with cuts

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Choir, orchestra, drama and more. Parents in Johnson County fear they're all on the chopping block.

Educators in the Blue Valley School District are considering the first changes to its middle school curriculum in over a decade, with an intention of spending more time on core subjects. Parents of students at the district's nine middle schools are concerned that may mean cuts to performing arts programs.

Blue Valley School District leaders say they aspire to prepare students for life after school is compete. That's why, according to BVSD Superintendent Dr. Todd White, educators want to concentrate on STEM-based coursework.

"We're offering more electives. We're offering more course work. We're talking about lengthening the time students can be exposed to them," Dr. White said in a videotaped statement released by the district.

However, there are only so many hours in a school day, and educators say dedicating more to core classes will mean taking hours from other topics of concentration. Parents fear that will mean a reduction in fine arts curriculum.

Enter Bob Stewart. The former Californian has spent time working in the arts, having been an actor and director in Hollywood. Nowadays, his two kids attend Blue Valley Schools, and are active in fine arts programs. Stewart has started an effort called Save Blue Valley Arts.

"I've received so much of an outpouring from the community," Stewart told FOX 4 News on Monday.

"The plan is to reduce the amount of time available to the arts, and all the electives, actually. They're lumping in PE, computers and technology."

Stewart says fine arts courses in middle schools are important to his family, as well as many others, and protecting those tracts of study is worth it. He's encouraging other parents to join Save Blue Valley Arts.​

"You could have a child in middle school, who could start sixth grade, and go sixth-to-eighth grades, and never take an art class," Stewart said.

"There's an absence of coding, or maybe robotics that our students need to be exposed to in order to be future ready," Dr. White said, via the aforementioned videotaped statement.

Blue Valley parents, such as Ed Dannewitz, whose two daughters are active in the district's music programs, says cutting back on the arts would have an immediate negative effect on kids.

"It's going to start cutbacks on the teaching. The ability to do extra stuff, like plays after school. Things like that. It's going to come back to the students to find special teaching instruction to get it all done," Dannewitz said.

The school district held an open meeting on Monday night to discuss plans. There are two more meetings scheduled for this week: Wednesday, May 3 at the CAPS Atrium from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. - 7501 W.149th Terrace, Overland Park, Kan. Thursday, May 4 at the CAPS Atrium from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.