Where Did Arts and Imagination Go?

... The district has decided not to run the Arts and Imagination program this summer. I was very disappointed to hear the news.

It usually lands reliably in our mailboxes at the same time the daffodils bloom. Parents would pull the thick catalog out of the mailboxes and sit down with their children, starry eyed at the thought of learning Spanish, piano or cooking during the dog days of summer. In our house, the Monroe Public Schools Arts and Imagination Summer catalog was something akin to the Toys R Us book of toys that lands the weekend after Thanksgiving: all possibility and anticipation. 

But as I was cleaning out the never ending pile of junk mail that magically grows on my kitchen counter a few weeks ago, I realized something was missing. We'd never received that little booklet with summer offerings through Monroe Public Schools. A girlfriend of mine wondered too as to how she was going to parcel out the warm weeks of July. 

“Did you get the Arts and Imagination book yet?” she asked.

Had we missed it? Was it just late? But I could envision clearly in my mind's eye the last five years of signing up my daughter for the classes: the trees were always blooming outside of Monroe Elementary as I walked in.

“It's definitely late,"  I told my girlfriend as we tried to reason out the possibilities.  

When we moved to Connecticut from Ohio nearly seven years ago, one of the things that had impressed me the most about Monroe Public Schools was the Arts and Imagination program. My eldest son attended school in four different states, and I've taught in three different school systems; I'd never seen a program like it for elementary students. Children have the opportunity to take karate, learn jewelry making, explore all sorts of new and interesting topics for a reasonable price. And while I think the programs run before and after the school days are outstanding, it was the summer program that enthused me the most. Nearly every summer we have lived here, we have always signed up for at least one week with the program, and coupled it with other programs available in town. 

But apparently, not this year. When more than one friend of mine started asking if I knew what was going on with the program, I finally asked a friend who has worked in the program in the past. She confirmed to me that the district has decided not to run the Arts and Imagination program this summer. I was very disappointed to hear the news. 

What bothers me more, though, is the lack of information available to the public about this decision. I never saw this on an agenda for the Monroe Board of Education for discussion (although admittedly I do not attend every meeting, but I do try to stay informed); I have seen no press releases from the district regarding the decision to shelve the program. Is this due to low enrollment during the last few summers? Is it related to the decision to close Chalk Hill School (where the program has traditionally been housed)? Is there a budgetary reason for the decision? I have no idea. 

I wish the public had been given the opportunity to weigh in on this decision to end an iconic program, a true asset to living within the borders of Monroe. This summer just will not be the same.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

momant May 14, 2011 at 02:48 AM
What is going on with the Town of Monroe. They are taking away things that our children love; teacher's, librarian's and now A & I. What's next closing Wolfe Park & town library??
Designated Hitter May 14, 2011 at 03:02 AM
That's disappointing! It was a nice social event for the kids and parents to continue to see each other over the summer. I hope it's reconsidered.
Steve Kirsch May 14, 2011 at 05:19 AM
As someone that does attend most BOE meetings, I can say that I don't remember any discussion about this. I guess people can come to the BOE meeting this Monday (May 16th) night and the Board to explain.
Alan Vaglivelo May 14, 2011 at 12:44 PM
The program was a 3-week program last year and enrollment had dropped significantly with only 37 students enrolled in week 3. One program director is retiring and the other opted to not do the program. Competition from all-day programs cut into our enrollment for working parents who needed all-day care. JH will be able to run the dramatic arts production independently if they want. A new A&I may return next year.
Amy Shelin Primorac May 14, 2011 at 03:48 PM
I am sure there are reasons behind this decision. But if these are the reasons for this sweeping decision, then I have a few points to make. First: I find it very, very difficult to believe that there isn't someone in this school district who would have been willing to run this program...was this decision made after a posting was done? Running this program would mean a stipend for the person running it...in this economy it seems amazing to me that someone would have not stepped up to the plate. Secondly, if enrollment was down in the later weeks (last year must have been the only three week year...I know it has traditionally been a longer program than three weeks), did anyone put any effort into finding out why? Are you sure it was from full day program competition or was there something more going on? Was there any effort made to reach out to parents who had been using the program in the past but had stopped for whatever reason? Finally, I again will say that this type of decision should have been brought to the community (or at least the Board of Education at a public meeting) before it was made. Did the Board vote on this decision? At the very least, a press release should have been issued around the usual sign up time to give parents a head's up. Not being forthright and upfront about things like this is what gives parents in this community pause about trusting the decisions made by the BOE and administration of Monroe Public Schools.
barbara May 14, 2011 at 03:56 PM
All my kids always enjoyed the summer A & I programs, years and years ago it was hugely popular and ran several weeks. I have to admit though, we did one week for our youngest child last year and I was surprised at how expensive it was. It was more than the all-day camp run by Parks and Rec. I was not going to register my son this summer for A & I for just this reason, we just can't afford it anymore. Still, I know others that were interested in A & I. It is too bad they couldn't do just a couple of weeks.
Donna May 14, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Arts & Imagination was a great program! My oldest daughter now 17 went every year when she was in elementary school. She still talks about it. My seven year old son has gone for the passed 2 years and loved it. He will be very disappointed when I tell himthe news. I hope BOE will reconsider.
K May 15, 2011 at 04:15 AM
I enrolled my son in the longer hours and cheaper Summer Fun Days as well.
Susan May 16, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Does anyone know if the JH theater portion of the program is a 'go' or not - I can't seem to find anyone who knows, and if it's not I want to get my child into some other program before everything fills up. Thanks!
Jill Holmes May 17, 2011 at 08:33 PM
All About Art has an awesome Summer Program that fill the need for students missing Arts and Imagination.
Wolfe August 02, 2011 at 09:47 PM
I think that Arts and Imagination is a wonderful program. And, I wish that we had it here when I was a child. But since it isn't being offered this year, Amy, why don't you enroll your children in the youth sports programs? If you are looking for a martial arts school, a relative of mine runs one on Route 25 (it's tae kwon do). Also, there are the boy scouts/cub scouts and the girl scouts that run year round. I hope that these suggestions help a little. I just want everyone in town to be happy---again.


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