‘Carousel of the Arts': Macon residents urge funding for arts

‘Carousel of the Arts': Macon residents urge funding for arts

Emergency federal funding provided quick relief to school systems burdened by costs incurred during the COVID-19 Pandemic. For Macon County Schools, some of that funding provided the opportunity for additional art teachers. Now, with that federal funding coming to an end, those additional art positions could be in jeopardy. 

At the commissioners’ April meeting, a swath of Macon County Students showed up for “Carousel of the Arts” to show commissioners just how much they appreciate art classes in school and plead for funding for the arts.

“The goal I had in organizing the event was to foster an initiative by our board to be more diligent in sharing with the board of commissioners the talent, creativity and successes of our students,” said school board member Diedre Breeden. “The commissioners are responsible for a lot and support the school system so much. We wanted to show them the fruit of their efforts and express our appreciation.”

Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funds were distributed as part of the American Rescue Plan to provide nearly $122 billion to states to help reopen and sustain school operation during the pandemic while addressing its impacts on students’ academic, social, emotional and mental health needs. North Carolina Schools received $3.6 billion in ESSER funds.

With its ESSER funding, Macon County Schools was able to add five full-time art teachers and four full-time music teachers to its ranks. It was also able to add one STEAM teacher.

“We were able to reinstate art classes at Macon Middle School. ESSER funds expire at the end of this school year, and we will have to acquire supplemental funding in order to continue the art and music classes that we currently have,” said Superintendent Josh Lynch.

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According to Finance Director Angie Cook, if no additional funding comes through then those ten positions added with ESSER funding would be eliminated.

“Unfortunately, we do not receive enough funding to provide a full-time music and art teacher at each of our schools,” said Lynch. “The ESSER funding allowed us to provide this needed service. Therefore, our students have been able to experience art exhibitions, musical performances, and choir at the elementary and intermediate levels.”

Several residents touted the importance of the arts in schools and share personal anecdotes about how art classes and teachers impacted their lives.

“In years past I’ve taught students with learning disabilities that can make grade level reading and math extremely difficult and sometimes stressful for the student,” said Macon County third grade teacher Mariah Rascati. “As we continue to cheer each other on and celebrate growth no matter how big or small, I can’t help but think of these students and how their eyes light up when they know its art day, or music day.”

The Carousel of the Arts started prior to the commissioners meeting with artwork on display in the halls of the county building. It continued after public comment with student-made gift baskets for each commissioner and performances by student artists and musicians.

“What we hope is that tonight is just the start of an initiative of our board to be better at informing you of the ways your investment in our schools is being used to create a very powerful ripple effect,” said Breeden in an address to the county commission. “When you invest in our students, you’re investing in our families and you’re investing in our community, and we are very appreciative of that.” 

Students from Iotla Valley and South Macon Elementary performed and presented work. Chase, a fourth grader from Iotla Valley, spoke to the county commissioner about art and architecture.

“Did you know that this building was built in 1972 and designed by Kyle C. Boone?” Chase asked commissioners. “The building is in a modern style architecture and was not the first courthouse for Macon County. This is actually the third building. The first building was built in 1829 and the second one was built in 1881.” 

Chase said he learned about North Carolina architecture and what architects do in his art class.

“Who knows, one of us may decide to be an architect one day here in Franklin,” said Gavin, another fourth-grader at Iotla.

Elizabeth Bennet, a fourth-grader at Iotla Valley told commissioners that she thinks they should keep music classes in schools.

“Without music, everything would be boring,” said Bennet. “Without music I would feel very sad, depressed and like I do not belong anywhere. I would be sad because I would not be able to listen to my favorite song. What I have enjoyed most about being able to participate in musical theater club and choir at Iotla is singing fun songs and being able to express my feelings with everyone.”

Students in the Iotla program are performing the Willy Wonka musical and sang one number for the commission. Students from South Macon Elementary also performed the song “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman.

“In our school, music gives us confidence and a place to belong,” said one South Macon student. “Thank you for supporting us and thank you for listening.”

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