City funding for the Fillmore Arts Center will remain intact — at least for another year.
D.C. Public Schools almost killed funding that allows more than 1,500 elementary school students at five schools to commute weekly to the Georgetown center for arts programming. But after parents pushed back, the school district announced Friday that it would fund the program for at least one more school year.
“We believe in arts education, and we believe in solving problems, and this gives us the opportunity to do both,” Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson said in a statement.
Beyond the additional school year, however, the program’s future is unclear.
The Fillmore Arts Center offers a range of arts classes for elementary school students, including in drama, chorus, dance, creative writing, ceramics and computer animation. But the program comes at a cost.
The five participating schools contribute the money they receive for arts and music instruction and pool their resources to keep the program afloat. The school district then allocates additional money to the site.
It costs $1,149 annually per student to participate in the Fillmore program, and much of that goes toward transporting students, according to Michelle Lerner, a spokeswoman for the school system.
That’s more than twice the $458 per student the district spends on arts and education across all elementary schools.
“While it has been a really great program, and it has benefited a lot of our students, we feel like we can do in-house arts instruction at these schools like we do at all of our schools,” Lerner said earlier this month when the program was on the chopping block.
Parents have held community meetings and started an online petition to save the program, saying that “if the cuts are allowed to stand, our students will lose sculpture, computer animation, digital arts, pottery, theater, dance, strings, band and others.”
They argue that the five elementary schools — Hyde-Addison, Key, Marie Reed, Ross and Stoddert — do not have the facilities to provide proper arts education.
This isn’t the first time that parents have fought to save the program.
In 2013, when Fillmore served 11 schools, budget cuts threatened to dismantle the program before parents mounted a successful protest.
After the revived funding for the program runs out next year, the school district is considering a number of options. One proposal would have participating schools hire the staffers at Fillmore to serve at the schools.
Although parents are relieved the program will be saved for the coming year, they said they would continue to fight to ensure it exists after that. The arts education offered at the Fillmore, they argue, is unmatched in the city’s elementary schools.
“There is no other program like it,” said Anne Masters, whose now-adult children participated in the program. “We can’t replicate this program in the schools.”