While some schools are pulling arts-related programs due to a lack of funding, Kokomo-Center School is opening a school entirely dedicated to that. This August, Wallace Elementary will reopen as a school of integrated arts for students in grades K-5.
“What I’m most excited about for the integrated arts school is that it may not fit every student’s interest in how they learn, but it is such a fantastic option for our kids. If you learn through the arts, it is a great program for you,” said Kokomo-Center Schools superintendent Jeff Hauswald.
The integrated arts school will allow students to learn a core curriculum in an environment in which the arts are incorporated into all aspects of learning. Students will have the opportunity to study art, music, dance and movement, and similar subjects.
“It’s such a unique program and a great opportunity for our kids,” said Hauswald said.
Beginning in January 2011, Hauswald and Principal Charley Hinkle visited several integrated arts schools to look at the idea. They decided it was something they wanted to move forward with, and the school board approved the program on Dec. 9, 2011.
Applications were accepted in January and February, and the opening of the school was contingent upon having enough applicants to fill each grade level. The response was overwhelming.
“We had a large number of students apply. We, right now, have waiting lists for the Wallace school,” he said.
This August, the school will open with 186 students.
The school is a magnet school, meaning that no one is guaranteed admittance based on where they live. Accepted students were given a creativity test to make sure they are able learn through the arts. The school is open to all students, whether they live in Kokomo or not. Hauswald said many of the students currently were not enrolled in Kokomo Schools.
Principal Hinkle will move from principal of Sycamore Elementary to fill the role of principal at Wallace. For the past couple decades, Hinkle has been hoping to be a part of something like this.
“This is something that, for 20 years or so, I’ve been interested in, and over the years we’ve put in a lot of time, a lot of legwork on this. I’m really excited about it. It’s a great opportunity for someone at my stage and my teaching career. It’s a great thing to do,” Hinkle said.
Three other current Kokomo-Center teachers will transfer to teach at Wallace, along with five other brand-new teachers.
“Teachers could apply, but they were not guaranteed a spot. Of our general elementary teachers, three of them are existing (Kokomo-Center) elementary teachers, but most of them, at least five of them, are new. They’re just out of college, and they all have degrees that emphasize integrated arts,” he said.
All of the teachers underwent an extensive integrated arts teaching program at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., as well as extended training over the past two months.
In addition to the eight general classroom teachers, other teachers will be employed to teach keyboarding, violin, art, and Spanish. This past spring, work began to redesign the building into a school to accommodate all of the arts.
“The renovations have been massive. We took the gymnasium out in terms of the basketball goals and bleachers. We have completely renovated and constructed an auditorium in that space,” Hauswald said. “The stage has been done. We’ve put in new soundboards, new lighting. New theater seats are being installed. The whole thing has been overhauled. What used to be the gym is now an auditorium.”
Additionally, every classroom has been renovated. One room has been redesigned into a dance studio, while others have been made to accommodate violin classes and keyboarding classes.
To add more culture and variety, an artist in resident program is in the works. The program will allow different artists to come in and work with teachers on a topic in which they specialize.
“The school is working to identify artists who will be there every week once school gets going. That may be artists who understand a good deal on textile art. They may understand a good thing on pottery or ceramics or watercolor or whatever it is,” he said. “They’ll come in and work with the teachers to go into the classrooms. There will be art everywhere.”
The school day will be one hour longer in order for students to receive 30-minute violin and keyboarding lessons each day. Students will have a dance class a week, Spanish instruction weekly, as well as visual arts.
“The students and parents I’ve spoken to are so excited about the opportunity. To have a school that will be that alive with integrated arts is going to be so exciting,” he said. “I know of no other art school in Indiana that is truly an integrated arts school in this approach.”