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Kansas City Public Schools is making sure its students are starting on the right note by offering an instrumental music class at select elementary schools.
The classes are available to third through sixth grade students, with instruments provided by the district. At this time, the courses are being offered at the following elementary schools:
- Foreign Language Academy
- Hale Cook
- Holliday Montessori
- JA Rogers
- Phillis Wheatley
KCPS is planning on expanding the program to all elementary schools by the next academic year.
"It's always been a dream of mine to start an instrumental program in urban education," said Avigail Gomez, music instructor at Trailwoods Elementary.
Gomez helped spearhead the district's fine arts expansion. Two years ago, the Hispanic instructor was offering after-school string classes to interested students. Last year, with guidance from Dr. Adrianna Marshall, KCPS K-12 coordinator of fine arts and physical education, she piloted the Trailwoods orchestra program, using instruments found in storage.
Gomez grew up in a predominately white southern California neighborhood and credits music for helping her find her place.
"I had my band teachers to guide me through everything, they taught me everything I know and even how to do taxes," Gomez recalled. "The music community is really what makes it special because it's just a family and no matter where you go."
A KCPS spokesperson told KSHB it's been at least 15 years, if not longer, since the district offered a similar program, an immediate reason as to why it was eliminated was not given.
The cost for KCPS elementary instrumental music expansion is estimated to be around $2 million out of the current fiscal year’s budget, which includes the cost to hire certified band and string specialists at each school site, along with instruments.
“I’m seeing kids who get frustrated learning to manage their emotions and be patient," Gomez said. "We don't really see people of color that are musicians and there's not very many teachers of color that are musicians. It's such an expensive thing to do and it takes a lot of time, effort and a lot of money, but to have this program here in a school that really needs, it is amazing."