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Minto council chimes in on saving high school theatre class

The theatre program was ended because not enough people signed up, says the UGDSB

PALMERSTON ‒ Minto council has joined the conversation surrounding the Upper Grand District School Board's decision to no longer run a Norwell District Secondary School’s Grade 9 theatre class.

During a regular council meeting on Tuesday, Belinda Wick-Graham, Minto’s director of economic and community development, encouraged council members to sign a petition to save the Grade 9 Arts Performing Projects (APP) class at Norwell, which is currently set to be ended due to a “significant” lack of registration. 

Of the 25 students needed to run the program, 19 registered. 

“As a cultural organization, we strongly don’t like this,” said Wick-Graham, during the meeting. “I don’t know if anyone went to see the Beauty and the Beast performance but…it was amazing to see youth on stage doing what they love.”

A four-credit program that allows students to focus on performance within school time and feeds the school’s theatre program, Theatre Norwell, which has been running for over 10 years, the petition was created last week by one concerned parent, Maggie Moore, and has garnered almost 900 signatures. 

In a letter to Francis Noventa, Norwell's principal, and the UGDSB school board, Peggy Raftis the chairperson of the Minto Cultural Round Table, asked that the decision be reconsidered as it is “an important program for the school and community at large.” 

“This program fills a need for students that have talents that should be nurtured and encouraged. Many children struggle with social interaction and the performing arts instill confidence, teamwork and provide a creative outlet that engages them to be a vital part of the school,” said Raftis, in the letter. “Having this available as a grade nine class gives a strong foundation for students that will support them throughout their high school career and beyond.”

During the meeting, Coun. Ron Elliott agreed that he was disappointed to hear of the program's cancellation, sharing that his grandchildren all took it. 

“It was amazing to see them up there doing things you never thought they could do,” said Elliott. “It’s a great program, one of the best programs we have for this, I don’t understand the school board’s decision.” 

Mayor Dave Turton also shared he was disappointed to hear the program could be cancelled and asked that the council have a UGDSB representative come to a future meeting and explain their decision. 

“We’re hoping this program isn’t permanently cancelled,” said Wick-Graham. “This program gets kids to school, similar to (sports programs)- some students come to school for that and this program is the same.” 

The UGDSB provided the following statement on the program's status:

"The Grade 9 APP program at Norwell District SS has not been cancelled. Rather, the difficult decision to close sections across several different subject areas has been made this year due to low enrolment through the course selection process.  

"The amazing staff at Norwell DSS will continue to provide students with a wide variety of curricular and extra-curricular opportunities in the Arts, including performances, experiences and other activities throughout the school year.  

"Going forward, if significant student interest occurs through the course selection process, this course could be offered again in future school years."

The cultural committee also agreed to write a letter of support for the APP class and submit it to the principal, school board, and school board trustee.

Isabel Buckmaster is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.

About the Author: Isabel Buckmaster, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Isabel Buckmaster covers Wellington County under the Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the Government of Canada
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