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updated: 5/12/2014 7:19 PM

Dist. 158 to start offering middle school orchestra classes

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Middle school orchestra classes are planned for the first time in Huntley School District 158, starting in the 2015-16 school year.

Sixth graders at Marlowe Middle School in Lake in the Hills and Heineman Middle School in Algonquin will learn to play brass, wind, string and percussion instruments.

The administration proposes rolling out the orchestra program over three years with seventh-graders joining in the second year, and eighth-graders the following year.

"It's exciting," Chief Academic Officer Mike Moan said. "It's a great opportunity for kids to take part in something that's cool. We have a really strong band and choir program at the middle schools. We are building off areas of strength for us."

The orchestra program will be supported through grant money the district received a few years ago, a portion of which was used to purchase music stands, chairs and other equipment.

"We have purchased backbone materials," Moan said.

An expected drop in elementary school enrollment will result in the loss of entire sections of elementary music classes beginning in 2015-2016, Moan wrote in a recent memo to the superintendent and school board.

Every elementary classroom has a section of music. "Next year, we start losing a couple of (elementary) sections per year," Moan said.

The district will reassign those elementary teachers to fill the proposed orchestra teaching positions at the middle schools.

"Once we get personnel covered by the shift ... getting the program started is not going to cost the district," Moan said. "There shouldn't be any large purchases needed right off the bat."

Both middle schools will have some orchestra materials on hand, and students will rent instruments from local companies, just like middle school band students.

A team of district administrators, middle school administrators, middle school band teachers, and elementary music teachers developed the proposal.

"Our music teachers have wanted it, and there's definitely interest from parents," Moan said. "It was a long-term goal for the district."

The middle school orchestra will recruit from out-of-district fifth-grade classes in the winter of 2015, just as the band program does. An introductory class will be offered this summer to current fourth-grade students to help build capacity for the orchestra program's roll out the following school year.

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