Arts in decline at Fenton High

Caleb Markley, Writer

Since the 2017-2018 school year, the number of students enrolled in classes in the fine arts wing at FHS has decreased by 41 percent. The most staggering drop is present in the drama program at 72 percent while video productions has seen a rise in enrollment over the past three school years with an increase of 24 percent. This increase can most likely be attributed to video production teacher Kevin Smith’s revival of the program during his time on the FHS staff.

Part of this decline is because of a scheduling change. Fenton High switched from block scheduling to traditional scheduling for the 2018-2019 school year. Instead of eight total classes with block scheduling, students have seven with traditional scheduling, one of those classes in either scenario being Student Resource Time (SRT). As a result, students lose at least one elective option each year.

“The state of Michigan has mandated 18 specific credits, regardless of what high school you attend,” Principal Laura Lemke said. “When you have 24 credits possible in a six period day and 18 are already scripted, that leaves six credits to meet additional local requirements and any electives. Considering the fact that students used to have 32 credits available to them under the block [schedule], the ‘decline’ is because of the loss of the block [schedule] as students have lost eight credits.”

Another factor is other elective classes, such as the sciences and social studies. Students may choose to take them over art classes for various reasons, such as saving money, general interest in the subject or career pathway.

“I think there has become an increased focus on providing students with academic classes that allows for college credit. I get that,” Dramatic Arts teacher Lori Thompson said. “The opportunity for students to enter college having already received credit for classes helps to save on time and tuition. The same goes for Genesee Career Institute in that it allows students an opportunity to learn a trade within an institutional setting that feels more like ‘home’ for them being centered around a skill that they have an interest in, and can get certified in rather quickly, which leads to a paying job shortly after graduating.”

The one guaranteed way to increase numbers in the art halls is to get students enrolled in these dwindling classes. The more student interest in these classes, the more resources and attention is paid into the arts wing.

“I think students that are interested in taking a fine arts course, yet find difficulty fitting it in their schedule, need to be a stronger advocate for themselves in making this option work for them,” Thompson said. “Are there required classes that can be offered during the summer, in person or online, that then allows some flexibility in scheduling at the start of the school year? Yes. As a fine arts teacher, myself and my colleagues continue to create various opportunities for students that help to build our programs. Production, performances, art exhibits, etc… are all areas in which we work to peak a student’s interest that then ignites involvement. Mr. Wright, Mr. Conaton and myself teach at Andrew G. Schmidt Middle School as well to help ‘recruit’ potential interested and talented fine arts students.”

Students hoping to add more electives to their schedule have the option to take online classes in the summer to open up spots for electives. To view all courses offered to Fenton High students, a link to the updated copy of the FHS curriculum can be found online on the FHS website at .