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More than 6,000 sign petition to keep band teacher at Pomona High School

Pomona High School was once known as a regional powerhouse for instrumental music. Now the school plans to cut the only full-time band teacher next year.

ARVADA, Colo. — Current students and alumni are planning to protest a decision by Pomona High School administrators to cut a full-time instrumental music teacher in the next school year, after more than 6,000 people have signed an online petition to keep the position.

Students at the school, once known as a powerhouse in the Denver metro area for instrumental music programs, created the petition upon hearing the news Friday before they left for spring break. By Monday, the petition had been shared by dozens of people online and sent to local news outlets.

“The Friday we were told was an orchestra class and when we were rehearsing some of our music, we were all crying while we were playing,” said Erin McGovern, a senior at Pomona who is the principal viola player in the school’s chamber orchestra.

“For band and orchestra and especially choir it’s our safe place. It’s where we go when we have a rough day and it’s where we go when we want to have a space to relax.”

Jeffco Public Schools told Next with Kyle Clark the school still prioritizes its instrumental and vocal music programs.

“In preparation for the 2022-2023 academic year, the school’s leadership team is aligning teachers and support to accommodate all student course requests, including requests for high-quality instrumental and vocal music electives,” a spokesperson wrote in an e-mail.

“Student’s course selection requests inform staffing decisions at the school, particularly around electives. Based on Pomona High School student selections, a full-time instrumental and vocal teacher was not warranted for the 2022-2023 school year. Students who signed up for instrumental and vocal music courses will have the opportunity to take these courses from excellent music teachers who are shared among multiple school campuses.”

But the move is already making some incoming students reconsider their choice to attend Pomona in the fall.

Jack Ferguson, 14, started playing cello in fifth grade. He was excited to attend Pomona in the fall, looking forward to audition for the school’s chamber orchestra. Now he says may have to transfer and leave his friends if he wants to pursue his dream of becoming a professional cellist.

“I was a bit sad that I had to make a choice between friends and cello,” he said.

His mother, Amy Ferguson, is one of the 6,000 people who signed the petition over the weekend.

“The arts community is taking a hit and they always kind of take the hits when it’s time to cut programs,” she said.

“He’s always been drawn to music,” Ferguson said of her son. “And I feel like he’s on the shy side, but I feel like he expresses himself through music.”

McGovern, who won’t be impacted by these changes since she’s graduating in the fall, said she’s organizing a protest in an effort to make sure the friends she leaves behind still have their beloved electives.

She disputes the school district’s assertion that enough students aren’t choosing band electives to necessitate a full-time staffer. McGovern said she’s witnessed the band grow in recent years and says course schedules create an obstacle.

She hopes the community will step in to offer some assistance.

“We’ve had donations made on our gym and everywhere else by the community,” McGovern said. “And we know that they’d be willing to do the same for band and orchestra, and no one’s really asked.”

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