Sioux City School District considers specialty schools, the firs - KTIV News 4 Sioux City IA: News, Weather and Sports

Sioux City School District considers specialty schools, the first to focus on fine arts


Twice a week, Sioux City elementary school students attend music class. Music and art are called "specials,” because they don't happen every day.

At Hunt Elementary, teachers might soon be singing a different tune, literally.  Plans are underway to incorporate the arts every day, in every subject.

"I wasn't sure if Sioux City would ever be ready to head in that direction,” said Hunt Elementary Principal Amy Denney.

“I have always really had a passion for the arts,” a music minor, Denney jumped at the chance to help turn Hunt into a specialty school, focused on the fine arts.

"We hope to have musical opportunities so students can take what they're learning in science and social students and act those out, by writing songs and singing about them,” she explained.

The concept isn't new. In fact it's been around for three decades.

"Over the last thirty years, they've seen a real correlation between schools that have a theme and real engagement with the community and better student attendance,” said Brian Burnight, district’s Elementary Education Director.

Teachers will be cross-trained to incorporate arts in class, while art teachers will learn ways to add science or math into their lessons.

"They might be representing what they're learning with visual art, through creating some sort of three dimensional object. They could also be representing something that they've learned in literacy by acting it out in a dramatically performance,” Denney said.

"The content may be similar to what it is now, but it's how we deliver it that's going to be different,” suggested Burnight.

“I know people are wondering, you already can't get it all in. How you going to fit this in on top of that. We're still teaching the benchmarks and standards that our district has established,” Denney pointed out.

Hunt is expected to be the first of four specialty schools established around the district, if the school board approves.

At the new Washington-Whittier Elementary the focus will be on STEM. Science, technology, engineering, and math will be incorporated in daily coursework.

“There's a lot of money flowing toward science,” Burnight pointed out.

The third specialty school is Loess Hills Elementary on Sioux City's west side. Here they will incorporate computer programming into their curriculum.

"Also they want to have some innovative concepts like a television studio and they also want to have a bit of a museum in one of their classrooms. Computer programming is going to be the piece that ties it all together,” added Burnight.

Irving Elementary is already a partial dual language school.

"So 50% of your day is in Spanish and 50% of your day is in English,” he said.

Right now 60% of students participate, but in a few years all students will be immersed in both languages. Parents would have the option of enrolling their students in any of the specialty schools.

Denney admitted academics sometimes suffer at Hunt, because of the language barrier.

“We really need to make sure that our kids are achieving and they're attending school, and that they have great learning opportunities every day that they're here. Our population here at Hunt, they struggle academically, and they struggle to get to school every day,” she explained.

However, she believes the arts are a universal language that can get students excited about learning.

"We really need to make sure that our kids are achieving and they're attending school, and that they have great learning opportunities every day that they're here. I see the arts as an avenue for that,” Denney said.

With 100% of her staff and 95% of parents saying they support the change, Denney is confident the program will hit the right notes.

The Sioux City School Board is set to vote on turning Hunt into a Specialty School at their regular board meeting on Monday.

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