GEA: New CMS Proposal Is Detrimental to Arts Programs and Community

Submitted by the Greenwich Education Association

Current Central Middle School, Greenwich: Enrollment 557, Auditorium Seating: Approx. 600
Western Middle School, Greenwich: Enrollment: 620, Auditorium Seating: 494
East Ridge Middle School, Ridgefield: Enrollment: 538, Auditorium Seating: 656
Roger Ludlowe Middle School, Fairfield: Enrollment: 850, Auditorium Seating: 650
West Rocks MS, Norwalk: Enrollment: 715, Auditorium Seating: 575

CMS Proposal: Reduce the size of the stage and cut seating from 550 to 250.

In looking at the current Central Middle School auditorium and other middle schools in Fairfield County districts, auditorium seating capacity covers roughly 75% or greater of the overall student population. This seating design is to meet the community and school needs for performances, plays, assemblies, community uses, etc. Anything less hinders performing arts programs. In speaking with Fairfield County music educators whose auditorium capacities do not meet the 75% threshold, their responses echo the above sentiment. For example, Scotts Ridge Middle School, Ridgefield, has 525 students and an auditorium capacity of 338 (64% Ratio). Their music teachers report that the following problems arise frequently: “Concerts and theatrical events have to be broken down to smaller or split events to accommodate larger audiences. The sound quality in a smaller auditorium is often not great because they’re not designed to be. Any school wide event has to be presented at least twice to accommodate the entire school body…. it will crush any performing arts program, it results in a real disparity between the schools; and it builds zero community.”

The Central Middle School size cut proposals are uninformed and not what is best for the CMS students or community. Among other cuts, the CMS Building Committee has proposed to cut the size of the auditorium in the new Central Middle School by more than half, in order to reduce the overall budget of the project. The proposal is to reduce the size of the stage and drastically cut seating from 550 to 250 (44% Ratio). The current auditorium has a seating capacity just shy of 600. Most CMS events (concerts, musicals, etc) reach that capacity and beyond on a regular basis. Just this past year alone, the musical production of Annie was nearly sold out both evenings, and the winter chorus concert was so crowded that students in attendance were forced to sit on the auditorium floor. Reducing the size of the stage and eliminating seating would have disastrous effects on these important student performances.

The suggestion has been made that for larger events (school concerts, musicals), CMS should move to the GHS performing arts center because it is in close proximity. This recommendation is outrageous and unreasonable. Rehearsals for school plays and musicals go for months – it is not a feasible plan to rehearse and rent the Performing Art Center (PAC) at GHS for months at a time. Scheduling events at the PAC is already extremely difficult due to its high usage by GHS classes and programs, district concerts and regional festivals.

In addition, the PAC is also booked with the Greenwich Symphony and there are limited alternate dates on the performance calendar during the district concert seasons.

The recommendation to use the PAC is short sighted, impractical, and hinders the success of our students.

Additionally, at one point there was also a proposal to eliminate a music room and make the teacher instruct students on the stage, a stage that in the current spacing proposal would be significantly smaller than the current stage specs. The band and orchestra can barely be contained by the current auditorium stage and the choral program has to perform in the orchestra pit because the risers cannot fit on the stage with all the students. In order to rehearse or perform in the proposed smaller CMS space, the students would have to be cut into multiple groups or be limited in size. By cutting the size or eliminating classrooms, the BET and BOE is effectively cutting the size of the programs at CMS, as well as the programs that move up to the high school.

This proposal is sacrificing the vertical growth of the music and arts program and constricting the successful programming at Central Middle School without the proper research, thought, or data other than cost savings.

This detrimental proposal is NOT what is best for our students, school, or community.

GEA is asking the town of Greenwich and the BET to support the music and arts program and NOT reduce the size of the stage or audience capacity at CMS.