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Seattle band students, parents hope their pleas to SPS don't go unheard

Band students at Washington middle school hope budget cuts don't affect their music program. (KOMO)
Band students at Washington middle school hope budget cuts don't affect their music program. (KOMO)
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The budget battle in Seattle Public Schools continues, with the school board moving through its budget process, with another work session.

Students at Washington Middle School are so passionate about keeping every segment of their music program intact. They marched from their school to Judkins Park to perform an impromptu concert, hoping that their music doesn’t fall on deaf ears with decision-makers who plan to cut their music program staff in half.

“For this generation, for young people, they’re taking away a whole legacy from jazz,” a student speaker said through a megaphone at the Judkins Park rally.

It was kind of sad to have to fight for the music programs,” said Mika Miroite while holding his baritone saxophone in his lap.

RELATED: Families, staff wince at slicing of western Washington school board budgets

As it stands right now, their school will lose nine staff positions next school year, including a band teacher, which the district told KOMO News, teaches intermediate orchestra and jazz band.

“Given the narrative around learning loss, I understand the kind of pressure that there is to cut music and not math,” said Miko’s mom, Shay Miroite.

“If there was ever a case for it, it just feels like we are just not even meeting the most minimum basic expectations.”

“These cuts will compound the issue of declining enrollment in Garfield High schools nationally recognized music program,” Silas Collins told the school board during a recent meeting. The 10th grader plays tenor sax in the Garfield High School Jazz Band, which is fed by programs like the one at Washington Middle School. The Garfield Jazz band is nationally known and again making a trip to New York City on the second of May for the Essential Ellington competition and festival.

The school district told KOMO News that if the music teacher's position will be eliminated next year, then Washington Middle School will still have another music instructor and a music program. It just might be structured differently than what students are accustomed to.

RELATED: Parents fear for students' safety after vote to cut security staff at Shoreline schools

Miko told KOMO that he wants people to understand that band supplements all the other subjects they learn.

“I’m like, we go to school not only to learn those subjects but like to learn community skills and things like that, and I think that band is one of the best ways to learn those things because like teamwork, cooperation and stuff like that,” said Miko.

Parents also talk about the greater role music plays for their students, helping kids cope with and even overcome bouts of anxiety and depression, especially after covid.

“Music has been in space for kids to come back into like normal life and reconnect,” said Shay.

RELATED: Edmonds Schools District votes to pass reduced educational program amid budget crisis

“We’ve been on multiple waitlists to get help, but you know what helped them? Music. Some think their passion about that lightens their hearts that help them to grow to feel like they’re successful,” said Maria Monroe David, a mental health provider and parent of two kids in the district.

The Seattle teachers union said they're not only fighting cut but the process to reach those decisions. Jennifer Matter, with Seattle Education Association, told KOMO News the union does not yet have a final count on positions being cut. However, they know there are still fights over counselors and social workers.

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The budget process is a long one. It started in the fall and won’t end until the school board takes its final vote on next year’s budget. That vote is scheduled for July 6.

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