Arts to be at the forefront of summer learning opportunities in Madison School District | Local Education

The Madison School District is preparing to launch a new summer learning pilot program focused on the arts.

The district’s Summer Arts Academy would give students in grades 6-12 the opportunity to work with a list of diverse local artists and art forms while providing students with outlets for creative problem-solving and self-expression.

“There tends to be a lot more programming opportunities at the elementary level, and then suddenly once middle school hits, things just kind of dry up,” said Peter Kuzma, the district’s arts education coordinator. 

About 250 middle and high school students had signed up for the program as of Tuesday, Kuzma said.

“It’s not just about expanding opportunities to the arts, it’s also about restoring the integrity to the arts so that kids have opportunities to express themselves in meaningful ways,” Madison School Board president Ali Muldrow said. “When you talk about how we address social emotional needs of our students right now, I think giving young people spaces to be creative and be in community can make a huge difference.”

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The district plans to enroll about 600 students in the program, funded through one-time federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief, or ESSER, to the tune of roughly $1.5 million. Because ESSER funding doesn’t renew and is meant to mitigate COVID-19 related learning loss, the district will have to look for other ways to fund the program if it is to continue beyond the pilot.

“The hope is that we have a really good year and this continues to grow,” Muldrow said.

Muldrow said funding for the program, if it is a success, could be tricky due to the flat revenue limit in the state’s biennial budget coupled with high inflation, which has driven up the cost of materials and transportation. 

The district plans to partner with community artists and organizations to offer theater, dance, music, writing and visual art opportunities to students with a focus on Black and brown artists and art forms. Current district staff will also have the opportunity to take part in leading arts programs.

Registration for students who would like to take part in the program closes on Friday but late registrations will likely be accepted individually through May 20, if the program hasn’t reached capacity.

“As long as we can say yes to a student who wants to participate, we will definitely find a way to do that,” Kuzma said.

Classes will take place at O’Keeffe and Cherokee middle schools during weekday summer afternoons, to give students who attend summer school in the morning an opportunity to participate in the arts academy, and are scheduled for June 20 through July 29. The program is free for Madison students. 

Registration is available online at

Anita Shire

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