Elevating the Arts Across K-12

Type: Article
Topics: Curriculum & Assessment, District & School Operations, Equity, School Administrator Magazine, Social Emotional Learning

October 01, 2021

Four districts’ strategies for strengthening the arts as social-emotional ‘medicine’ for students and for nurturing creative expression
Students playing drums
Young students in Buncombe County, N.C., enjoy a robust arts program with child-sized musical instruments, singing and fine arts. PHOTO COURTESY OF BUNCOMBE COUNTY SCHOOLS, BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C.

When the COVID-19 pandemic swooped in 18 months ago, arts educators found themselves thrust into a prolonged period of remote learning and hybrid instruction.

The pandemic took a particular toll on the performing arts. In most places, student theater, chorus, marching band and orchestra were suspended. According to one recent poll by the Educational Theater Association, 90 percent of high school musicals were can-celled in 2020-21 because of the fear of transmission and concern about additional costs for personal protection equipment and extra cleaning of school facilities, props and costumes.

Given the dire state, it is noteworthy that Buncombe County Schools, which serves 23,500 students and is nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains around Asheville, N.C., managed a theater production of “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” last spring, as well as two other performances, after adopting special health and safety measures to protect students, staff and a small audience.

Buncombe County’s superintendent, Tony Baldwin, insists he has no personal talents in the arts, yet he is a major advocate for the part they play in a well-rounded education. He recognizes the significant contributions his arts educators made during the uncertainty of the past school year. “The natural creativity of arts teachers allowed them to not miss a beat,” he says. “What they were able to accomplish last year in helping students stay connected and engaged simply blew me away.”

This Content is Exclusive to Members

AASA Member? Login to Access the Full Resource

Not a Member? Join Now | Learn More About Membership