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Advocates fight to bring back health, p.e. and art requirements for middle-school students

Salt Lake City – Complaints have been pouring in since the Utah State Board of Education voted in August to make health, physical education and art classes optional for middle-school students.

Now, the board will take another look at the issue on Wednesday, September 20th at the Utah State Board of Education offices.

People who are against the new policy felt like they didn't have a chance to weigh in.  So they have started a petition to reverse it.  They argue that less art and music in the classroom will take a toll on students.

15-year-old Abby Smith attends the Gifted Music School in Salt Lake City – a non-profit organization that offers music training for kids in pre-school through high school.

“Music just like math is one of the two universal languages,” Hana Janatova, with the Utah Teacher’s Music Association said.

Janatova has fought to keep programs in the arts and music in Utah schools.  Her latest battle is with the Utah State Board of Education.  In August, members voted 9-6 to approve a new policy that makes health, physical education, and art classes optional for 7th and 8th grade students.

“That scares me quite honestly," Janatova said.  "It opens up that window of opportunity for really limiting the access to art.”

Janatova will represent the Utah Music Teachers Association at the upcoming state school board hearing.  She’ll join the following groups who requested the hearing:

Utah Education Association

Utah Democratic Party

Uintah School District

Utah Cultural Alliance

Janatova says low-income students or those who live in rural areas already have limited access to the arts and if public schools don’t make it a requirement, they’ll grow up without being exposed to these vital subjects.

“Do we want a generation that just knows how to code, and just knows everything in STEM without that aspect of personal expression?”

Crystal Young-Otterstrom is the Executive Director for Utah Cultural Alliance.  She says giving schools local control will force many to cut the programs altogether because of budget constraints.

“It`s important to have a minimal set of standards that lead to equitable education across our state so students in Canyons, students in Juab, or students in Roosevelt, Logan, Salt Lake City aren`t having a better or a lesser education as a result.”

Young-Otterstrom started an online petition urging board members to reconsider.

To sign the petition, click here.