Art school comes back to San Francisco

August 24, 2009 6:50:26 PM PDT
For anyone older than their mid-30's, you'll remember dance, theater, and music as a part of your school curriculum. These days, those programs are among the first to be cut, but they are making a comeback in San Francisco.

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There will be a new dance class at John O'Connell High School, there will be drama in the new theatre, and food creativity in the culinary department. The curriculum is about preparing students for success.

"We have carpentry, we have culinary, we have dance, we have computer art and a whole other variety of art classes as well. So we consider that important for the overall education of the kids," says principal Rick Duber.

The culinary department students even cater district events -- for a fee.

"As we all know the real soul of humanity is having music, arts," says San Francisco school superintendent Carlos Garcia.

Garcia is seeing the result of Proposition "H' passed by voters in 2004.

"Out of Prop 'H' we're able to fund the arts, the music, the athletic programs, the libraries. Before we had to get rid of," says Garcia.

"H" mandated a third of money go to the arts.

For 50 percent of the students here English is not a first language. While they learn the academics, it's the arts that bring them a full education, so they can realize the American dream.

Dance here is about expressing yourself and developing life skills.

"How to make the group more important than the individual. So they have to non-verbally -- since we work in dance and theater -- figure out ways to communicate. So it's a communications exercise, but it's also a way to work with an ensemble," says Xedex Olivas, a dance instructor.

"Yeah, it's a good class," says one student.

"Something different at O'Connell," says another.

While it's an optimistic start to the school year, there is a reality. The city's rainy day fund saved classes and jobs this year, but the financial challenge is far from over.

"Sooner or later we're ready to hit the hard realities of all of the other school districts in the state of California," says Garcia.

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