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District urged to plan for fine-arts center

A Sweet Home School Board member is pushing the district to look into establishing a fine-arts center at the middle school or in a separate facility.

Dirk Rabenold, a former School Board president who ran for Amherst supervisor last year, introduced the idea at Tuesday's board meeting.

Rabenold said a fine-arts center was discussed about two years ago when the board began developing plans for renovating the middle school.

Rabenold suggested the district look into whether it can partner with Erie 1 Board of Cooperative Educational Services or other entities on a facility to cultivate students' musical and theatrical abilities.

Rabenold compared a BOCES-supported fine-arts program to the cosmetology and culinary arts programs BOCES now offers.

He said studies link musical proficiency to higher academic achievement and said a fine-arts program could improve overall student performance.

"It's very much in the infant stage right now," Rabenold said. "There are people out there, principally, who may be willing to come through with some funding."

Rabenold suggested the board consider adding to the proposed expansion of the middle school auditorium to accommodate a larger fine-arts program or examine the feasibility of a separate facility.

Board member Joe Miranda agreed with Rabenold, saying the board at least should examine the feasibility of creating a fine-arts center. Superintendent Geoffrey Hicks said he would check to see if a fine-arts program could be created jointly through BOCES. "Maybe we could coordinate a program with BOCES and offer it at other schools," Rabenold said. "Let's put three, four or five people in a room and see if this can be done and how we can do it."

Rabenold also suggested the board look for ways to open its swimming pool to district residents for community fitness programs.

A couple who had confronted the board at last week's meeting alleging they had pulled their son from Sweet Home Middle School after he was subjected to repeated bullying attended Tuesday's meeting but did not speak.

They are scheduled to meet privately with district administrators Thursday to discuss the incidents and the district's policies on violence in the schools.

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