File photo                                Jasmine Morris, Ryaan Lari, Alisa Ramakrishnan and Lindly Liew wondered last month if the program would remain.

File photo Jasmine Morris, Ryaan Lari, Alisa Ramakrishnan and Lindly Liew wondered last month if the program would remain.

Sunnyside Elementary band solution strikes discord

District insists the South Surrey school program will continue, but parents say they are ‘irate’ over a plan to share their band teacher with other elementary schools

Concerns of parents of current and former students in the Sunnyside Elementary band program that it will be discontinued are unfounded, according to a Surrey School District representative.

Rumours have circulated among parents that the award-winning program taught by Susan Hagen – and widely considered a valuable ‘feeder’ program for the Semiahmoo Secondary bands – would be ended after the conclusion of the school year, due to shortage of available space.

But that is not the case, Surrey schools communications services manager Doug Strachan told Peace Arch News Thursday.

“The only change to the band program – unequivocally – is that it’s changing rooms,” he said.

“It’s moving – it will now be in a common area, possibly the gym, instead of a classroom, as is the case with 90 per cent of the band programs in elementary schools.”

However, parent Lindly Liew told PAN there will be a significant change for Sunnyside, in that the program “can’t continue” as parents and students have known it.

“People are pretty irate about it, still really quite upset,” Liew said Thursday, describing Hagen’s job as being “cut in half,” to where she will only be teaching Grade 7 band.

“She had to choose between (teaching the core program and teaching Grade 7s).

“Parents are very disappointed, I think, that that’s the outcome.”

Hagen declined to comment on the issue.

Liew first contacted PAN last month about possible changes to the band program, after parents were presented with two scenarios: that the program would either be relocated to a portable or moved to another school entirely.

The scenarios, she said at the time, were presented as being considered as part of efforts to create new class space, as the district grappled to address class-size and composition mandated by last year’s Supreme Court ruling.

Strachan told PAN at that time that “we do not see a problem maintaining the band program at Sunnyside.”

Thursday, he reiterated that there will be “no reduction” to the band program.

Increased enrolment, and the current contract with the B.C. Teachers Federation, means that the core music program must become full-time – claiming classroom space the band program had previously occupied for only two blocks a week he said.

Strachan confirmed that Hagen had previously been dividing her time between teaching core music and the band program at Sunnyside, as well as also teaching Grade 7 band at several other elementaries as a district placed “itinerant” teacher.

As of September, another teacher will be assigned to core music at Sunnyside, and Hagen will be teaching band at “around half a dozen” elementary schools in addition to Sunnyside, Strachan said, adding that full details of assignments are still to be worked out.

Instrument-storage space – another area of concern raised last month – has been found elsewhere in the school, he added.

He acknowledged that an extracurricular band for students in grades 4-6, organized by Hagen at Sunnyside and mentored by band students from Semiahmoo Secondary, is not included in board calculations concerning the band program, and depending on space requirements come September there may not be a dedicated room for core music, meaning that equipment would be taken classroom to classroom.

But Strachan said he did not know the origin of rumours that the band program itself would be discontinued.

“Change is always something that can create problems and apprehensions,” he said.

(This story was modified from its original version after further information was received from Strachan on June 19)