“For a lot of my students, this is their safe space,”: How teachers are working to keep fine arts during pandemic

Education 21st Century

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Local teachers say the fine arts are an important outlet for school-age children, especially during the uncertainty that has come with the pandemic.

That’s why teachers in the 501 school district like Eric Bradshaw and Ashley Greenlee are finding a way to make them happen this school year, safely.

“It’s pretty surreal to go through august and not have at least one band camp, or when I was younger, working multiple band camps,” Bradshaw, a band teacher in the 501 district said.

“We’ve all been trying to adapt and learn all of these new systems so that we can be successful,” Greenlee, a choir teacher in the disrict said.

Despite some of these difficulties, these teachers are adapting the norm to make sure fine arts classes continue.

“For a lot of my students, this is their safe space. They come to school because they get to express themselves. Because they feel comfortable here. Because they feel heard here,” Barbie Atkins, an art teacher in the district said.

When school starts for the district virtually, music and art classes will begin with pre-recorded lessons and focus on things they don’t usually have time for.

“Responding more to music doing more creating and connecting through music in different ways,” Greenlee said.

And when things move to the hybrid model with students back in the class room, they’ll make safety adjustments accordingly.

“We will have to wear masks with slits in them for mouthpieces to go through for all the wind players. we’ll have bell covers on the instruments, we’ll be at six-foot social distancing and straight rows instead of the traditional curved arcs that we normally have,” Bradshaw said.

He said they’ll also find a way through the inevitable challenges he foresees this coming school year.

“Our band class meets at 7:55 in the morning. So for students who may live in an apartment complex, their neighbors may not want to hear them drumming or playing their trumpet,” Bradshaw said.

They’re also staying focused on the benefits that come with their students having access to these classes.

“Maybe you’re a struggling reader or all of these things but you can come into an art room, or a music room, or a theater room and you can just excel,” Atkins said.

As for the theater, they plan to work on virtual shows, outdoor performances, and costume design at home.

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