WMS 8th Grader: Orchestra was my relief for the day

Open letter to Greenwich Board of Education and Dr. Jones from Layla Rodriguez, Western Middle School 8th grade student

My name is Layla Rodriguez and I am currently an 8th grader at Western Middle School.  The purpose of this email is for me to voice my opinions about not having the performing arts in school.  I have been playing the cello for 5 years and it has been a significant part of my life. 

Orchestra is my favorite class out of all of my classes and it is my stimulation for the day because gym class isn’t the best for me.  One of the reasons why orchestra was my favorite class in 6th and 7th grade is because last year I had double blocks for English, and orchestra was my relief for the day.  There are many kids that are exactly like me and absolutely need the performing arts as part of their regular school day.

To add to this point, Greenwich has had many alumni that are famous in the arts department. If the performing arts are removed from the curriculum this year, you will jeopardize the progress that I have made since third grade. In addition, there are many children who are not able to afford private lessons to continue their instrument, therefore they depend on school for instruction. 

The performing arts are much needed. I also would be willing to go hybrid for the performing arts, even if it was just once a week for one hour.  I am also aware about the safety concerns for including the performing arts in the schedule. 

It would be challenging to fit the arts into the current schedule because of the designated cohorts, but I would like to point out that during Western’s “fire” last week, all of the orange team including me went through the green door and was pushed up against green team students.

To sum up my point, the cohorts should be okay to be mixed for an hour because of the two teams touching each other.  For strings, the gym can be used because gym class is held outside and there are only 3 periods of lunch in the gym.  Also, if gym class can’t be held outside for some reason, the alternative is to have everyone in the auditorium to learn about health.  In case you didn’t know, the green team and the orange team have already been mixed in the auditorium and in gym class.  The tables are also equally spaced and students who play violin and viola that are not required to sit can stand to provide extra space.

Since school began, I’ve had three music classes.  It’s a waste of my time because I am relearning concepts from 2nd grade.  This is unacceptable.  I feel Greenwich can and should fix this.  Orchestra is a very important class to me and my mental well being. 

It is essential to my life and like Mr. Sherr said at a recent BOE meeting I was listening to, the state guidelines are being violated according to the Connecticut State Department of Education addendum 7, “It is essential for Connecticut schools to maintain rigorous programs of study in the arts across all grade levels.” I hope that you take this email into consideration and not as just a silly kid talking about their beliefs. 

Thank you for your time,
Layla Rodriguez