A new music program at Ballenas Secondary School for students with complex needs will be the first in the province if it gets approved, but after some confusing commentary from trustees, the project is at a standstill.
"We can't really go ahead until we know how much funding we have," said Carrie Powell Davidson following Tuesday night's school board meeting. "We can't delay it — it has to start soon."
Davidson, a Parksville city councillor and music therapist, pitched the pilot project called Music Without Boundaries to the board Tuesday night, along with longtime BSS music teacher Rick Robson, Daphne Schenk, a parent of a student in the Life Skills program, and Susan Kozielecki, coordinator of that program. The group asked the board for $5,000 to run a four-month pilot project, $3,000 of which is to pay Davidson for her work in the program and $2,000 for specialized equipment and supplies.
Davidson said Robson came up with the idea after giving some guitar lessons to Life Skills students. Robson then talked to Davidson, who loved the idea, and when Schenk approached Robson asking if music could be incorporated into her son's school day, they kicked the planning into high gear. Schenk's son has Down syndrome and autism and doesn't speak, so in some ways his mother tongue is music, she said at Tuesday's meeting.
Music students at BSS would mentor the Life Skills students in the pilot project and a combined concert would take place at the end of the year, Davidson explained.
After hearing the presentation trustee Eve Flynn passed a motion to find $5,000 for the program in the budget and trustee Barry Kurland seconded the motion. Although board chair Lynette Kershaw said she supported the motion, she asked if the board could delay any vote until they had a chance to look at the budget and get more information. She made a motion to defer.
When asked, Powell-Davidson confirmed this would impede the project from getting started. Trustee Julie Austin asked what the travel budget was for a trustee and said rather than travel to conferences she'd like to approve the project.
"There are places I don't have to go — I can get the information from my colleagues. This is far more beneficial to students than my travel."
Assistant secretary treasurer Tracee Carey said they would have to wait and have a look at the budget. Assistant superintendent Rollie Koop then cautioned trustees they would have to consult teacher representatives.
After Kurland asked if part of the money could be approved, Kershaw asked if perhaps they could approve the program in principle after looking at the budget and other agreements.
After the board defeated the motion to defer, it passed a motion to approve the program in principle.
Powell-Davidson later told The NEWS she can't afford to volunteer full time for the program and has already put in a lot of volunteer time. She hopes to hear by the end of this week, and she hopes it's good news for the students, she said.
"It'll warm your heart to see something they love so much and are not getting," she said. "They rub their hands and jump up and down in their seat when you ask if they want to have music."