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Arts take hit in District 65 layoffs

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When arts activists gathered this noon in Evanston to plan for an upcoming youth arts event, much of the buzz was about how many fewer arts teachers there'll be in local schools next year.

Chute Middle School art teacher Cindy Adler said three of her Evanston/Skokie School District 65 art teacher colleagues have received layoff notices from the school administration.

The school system's public information officer, Pat Markham, confirmed this afternoon that the board has voted to layoff three art teachers, as well as two music teachers and six other people.

The layoffs will amount to 9.3 full-time-equivalent positions, since some of the people being let go are in part-time jobs.

Markham noted that under the state school code the district has to give teachers notice of layoffs at this time of year, even though there may still be changes in staffing needs that could result in some of the dismissed teachers being rehired by this fall.

The layoffs amount to about 1.7 percent of the district's workforce of about 650 instructional employees.

Two years ago the district sent layoff notices to 29 teachers as it faced a projected budget deficit of up to $5.8 million.

But most of those teachers were rehired after the district's financial picture turned out to be less dire than anticipated.

Markham said the art layoffs were "programatic reductions" that result from changes in how the district plans to allocate staff for next year.

Adler said the changes will mean art teachers will have to teach seven class sessions a day next year instead of six.

Markham said the changes would still keep teaching loads within the union contract mandated maximum of 1,490 minutes of pupil contact time for teachers each weeek.

She said the district will continue to provide art and music instruction to students at each grade level next year.

The noontime meeting, at Autobarn Mazda, was designed to mark the 25th anniversary of the Young Evanston Artists program, and to plan for expansion of the program as it enters its second quarter century.

One idea the group discussed was holding a series of forums on expanding arts opportunities for young people — starting with a session for elementary and high school teachers next October.

This year's YEA art fair will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 19, in the Chicago-Dempster shopping district.

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