Jefferson Township High School (JTHS) band and choir students and parents came out to the Jefferson Township Board of Education meeting once again to voice their opposition to the board’s decision to cut morning band and after-school chorus.

At the meeting on February 12, Assistant Superintendent Jean Howe explained to Josh Dyl, a junior at JTHS: “The way the block scheduling works, we can’t pay [the teachers] how we currently do. The schedule this year allows for them to work a regular day without paying them extra, but with the new rotating block schedule, this won’t be able to happen next year.”

Alyssa DeNino joined in Josh’s opposition, arguing that it would be worth paying the band and chorus teachers extra in order to keep these two programs afloat. Alyssa equated the music program to high school sports. She stated that, like students with an interest in a sport, chorus and band students should not have to choose between participating in the music program and dropping a rigorous Advanced Placement or honors level class held at the same time. “Sports players are able to practice and refine their talents after school. Wrestlers come in early to practice,” she noted. “Why can’t this be the same for chorus and band students?”

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Scheduling the music electives during lunch and academic periods will force students who wish to participate in both band and chorus, including herself, to choose only one, Alyssa stated. “At the very least, either a band or chorus class needs to be offered at a different time that isn’t during the school day, so people like me won’t have to make a choice. I just hope we can find a solution.”

Another concern was the lunch schedule. “If we have band or chorus during our lunch and academic period, when will we be able to eat?” Alivia Catania asked. Howe explained that this would be up to the teacher’s discretion, suggesting that a certain section could eat while another section rehearsed. However, Lydsi Cortese argued on behalf of fellow students that this solution would not work because “you need all of the sections together to see how it all comes together.”

Although discussion of this matter is expected to continue, Kara Majury, a senior at JTHS, told The Jefferson Chronicle that “it seems like they are pretty set in their decision to cut the two programs. But we’re not giving up just yet.”

Block Scheduling

The scheduling change for next year is opposed by many band and chorus students and parents due to the resulting cut of morning band and after-school chorus. Some also remain uneasy about block scheduling in general and new credit policies.

Muskan Mantoo, a student representative on the board, noted that the graduation credit requirement would be increased from 130 to 140 credits. Howe attempted to ease concern, explaining that the change will affect only incoming freshmen.

Others endorsed block scheduling. Justine Riegel, parent of a JTHS student, told the board: “Seeing it firsthand at the school I work at, although it takes some getting used to, it is worth it in the end.” She also supported the board’s investment in more snack and satellite lunch servers and wished them well in adjusting to the new schedule.  

Finance and Building

In addition to more lunch servers and possibly an extra custodian to clean up after each lunch period, the Board of Education is looking into other investments, improvements, and renovations.

The board is working with the town on preliminary plans to install a bathroom facility at the JTHS football field because the property is used extensively. Details are currently being confirmed.

To help cover expenses in renovating the high school auditorium, the board is offering sponsorship of auditorium seats. Order forms can found at https://www.jefftwp.org/cms/lib/NJ01811639/Centricity/Domain/8/Auditorium.pdf.

Closing Comments

Board member James Martorelli and President Jill Van Ness thanked community members, especially students, for coming to the meeting and expressing their concerns, which will be taken into consideration as plans move forward. The board invites more students and parents to share their thoughts about the future direction of the school district.

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