An online petition titled Save Music in Tamaqua is imploring the Tamaqua Area School District to forgo what it claims are proposed changes in its music program.

One district administrator, however, stated that any changes involving the music program are premature at this point and will likely depend on the district's currently proposed restructuring of its elementary schools.

"We are not looking to compromise the integrity of our music program," said Tamaqua Area Superintendent Carol Makuta.

The petition, which appears on petitionsite.com, is seeking 1,000 signatures and had 530 names signed as of Monday evening. It also has a page on the Facebook social network which attributes Drew Bonner, a Tamaqua Area senior and band member, as the Facebook page creator.

The petition asks the district to keep its music program the way it is and not cut the equivalent of half a teacher. It is signed by Heather Hannon, Tamaqua Area Band Booster Association President for 2009-2010.

The text of the petition is as follows:

"Are you aware of what changes to the music education program the school district is proposing?

"We've always had 5 music teachers in the Tamaqua School District. Recently (in the past couple years) it was changed to 4 music teachers. One music teacher teaches time music and time PSSA. The proposed change starting school year 2010-11 reduces it to 4 teachers! No one is losing their job, the teacher will teach other subjects, not music.

"Mr. Potlunas and Mr. Beltz will be teaching some general music education classes. This means they will be teaching at least 30 less music lessons a week!

"Less lessons equals less musicians! This would be a huge impact to our band. There will be 1 music teacher for the elementary schools! Considering the number of students this seems near to impossible. There will be no prep or transition time and certainly the quality of the classes will be affected. It could possibly mean some grades might not even have music class.

"Tamaqua's Music Education program is being attacked!

"We are not asking to change anything. We are asking to keep things the way they are!

"Our plan is to start with a petition that we will present to the school administration.

"You can show the school administration that you don't want these changes to happen by signing our petition. If you value the music education your children ch value\=\"194 189\"/=

have been given and want it to continue at the same quality level as it has been, then please help by signing our petition.

"It can be found at: www.thepetitionsite.com/1/save-tamaquas-music-education [1]

"Thank you, Heather Hannon, Tamaqua Area Band Booster Association president 2009-10."

Makuta said she has not seen the petition but noted that any considerations regarding the music program are preliminary.

The district's administration has proposed turning Rush Elementary School in Hometown from a Kindergarten through Grade 5 school to a Primary Learning Center for grades K-1. That means grades 2-5 would be moved to Tamaqua Elementary School, while Tamaqua Elementary's Kindergarten and first grade would move to Rush.

The Tamaqua Area School Board has the Rush Elementary proposal on the agenda for its monthly meeting tonight.

"Everything is in the planning stages, and we have been looking at various scenarios," said Makuta. "It depends on if we have a primary center up there (at Rush Elementary)."

Makuta explained that because Rush would be K-1 only, elementary band director Mark Beltz, who teaches band for grades 4-5, wouldn't have to teach at that building if the proposal carries through.

Some of the moves the district is looking at would eliminate travel times between buildings for its music teachers, Makuta suggested.

Makuta said she met with the district's music staff last Friday. In some instances, the music staff could be asked to concentrate on reinforcing certain areas to help promote interest in music, such as having Beltz in contact with grades 5-6 at the middle school and choral director John Buglio in contact with grades 8-9.

Makuta said it is possible that the staff could teach an extra class here or there.

"We are not looking to reduce the number of periods we offer music," she stated. "We are not looking to shortchange the band, but if we use people differently, it's going to look different."

No one associated with the online petition has been in contact with the district, according to Makuta.

"No one came forward to speak with me or any of the principals about this," she noted. "We have a wonderful music program and we're looking for ways to promote and expand it."