Schedule changes mean sixth-graders won’t have an art class next year but seventh- and eighth-graders will actually have more art at Jackson Hole Middle School.
Matt Hoelscher, who will move from assistant principal to principal this fall, said the changes in art offerings are not due to budget cuts.
As an enrollment bubble — the same one that forced elementary schools to use modular classrooms — moves through the school district, the middle school is now facing a crunch: How can it educate more children in the same space with the same number of teachers?
There are two art teachers. One works full time at the middle school, and the other splits her day between the middle school and Jackson Hole High School. So, technically, the middle school has 1.8 art teachers.
A new master schedule for all classes will begin in the fall. The adjustment means no art class for sixth-graders, but that doesn’t mean no art at all.
“I do share the concern that they won’t get that formal art class,” Hoelscher said.
So he and other middle school staff and administrators have devised options to still bring art into the school.
The school plans to join forces with pARTners, a formal community and school partnership that helps integrate the arts into Teton County School District K-12 classes. At least once a quarter pARTners will bring artists and art opportunities into the sixth-grade curriculum.
Additionally, pARTners and the Center of Wonder, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the arts and creative education in Jackson, will work with the school to offer a zero-hour art club only for kids in sixth grade.
Zero hour is an optional period for students who want to get more done before the rest of school. The zero-hour option is popular with high school athletes, who often leave for sports practice before the end of the school day, but it exists at the middle school, too, and runs from 8:05 to 8:50 a.m.
“If parents are concerned they can sign their students up for that class,” Hoelscher said.
The zero-hour art club will start at two days a week, but Hoelscher said that if it goes well it might be extended to more days.
There is an upside for kids who need to move during school hours.
“We’ve shifted the schedule so that all sixth-graders will have PE every single day,” Hoelscher said.
Art options will increase for older students at the school.
In the past students in seventh grade took only a quarter year of art class. Now it will be a yearlong offering in that grade.
“Offering it all year long actually increases the number of hours kids will be in art overall,” Hoelscher said.
In seventh grade kids will get 30 more hours of art in a year, or 30 more days of a one-hour period.
Art class will remain an option for eighth-graders, too. Roughly one-third of eighth graders have opted to take art as an elective in the past. Now, Hoelscher said, that’s estimated to increase to two-thirds. Students used to take two electives, and now they’ll be able to take three.
Studies show that art education is important in schools — not just as a break from math and reading but important on its own. When children are exposed to art at a young age they have time to develop creativity, motor skills, visual learning skills and more.
Staff and administrators at the middle school are aware of that.
“In three years at Jackson Hole Middle School, students will get more art than they ever could have with the old schedule,” Hoelscher said. “And more than elementary school, too.”