For decades the Puyallup School District has made it a paramount policy to ensure that all students as early as fifth grade are exposed to band and orchestra opportunities.
However, eight years ago it became increasingly clear that to ensure programs were continued a new curriculum model would have to be implemented.
"Many school districts when they have had to make cuts would cut band and orchestra at the elementary level and make middle school the beginning point," said Brian Fox, executive director of communications, information and arts education. "We’ve been able to retain our program by the way we serve the students."
The original curriculum model had a band and orchestra teacher at each of the 21 elementary schools. Today, the new model cuts that number in half and places instructors at each of the seven junior high schools in each of the three regions in the district.
Fifth and sixth graders then go to the junior high that serves them for morning instruction in orchestra or band before the school day starts at their elementary school. When the 45 minute period is done, students are bussed back to their school.
"The model gets the elementary kids into the junior high so when they come here as seventh graders this place is way less inimidating because they've already been coming here," said Todd Giltner, orchestra director at Aylen Junior High School and Puyallp High School.
At Aylen Junior High School, Giltner instructs sixth graders on Mondays and Thursdays and fifth graders on Tuesdays and Fridays.
"I enjoy getting to know them. They're fun kids," Giltner said. "I will have these kids through twelfth grade. In some cases I've taught their brothers and sisters before them and I've taught children of former students. You build a relationship with them that lasts forever."
Look for a full-length story on Puyallup School District's successful curriculum model in the Feb. 6 print edition of the Herald.
Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew