The Coronavirus vs. Arts Education

by Carol Kocivar | August 3, 2020 | 5 Comments
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Standing Up for the Arts

In tough budget times, it can be hard to stand up for arts education. As the Coronavirus looms over everything, some school districts are already slimming down arts programs for this coming year.

But here’s some advice for parents: Even in this new world of distance learning, schools must provide students with a full curriculum — and a full curriculum includes the arts. California law specifies that the arts should include instruction (in grades 1-6) or courses (in grades 7-12) in four disciplines: dance, drama and theatre, music, and visual arts.

Why Push for the Arts Now?

With so many families struggling through these difficult times, the arts are more important than ever. The arts touch our emotional core, whether it is song or dance or drama or drawing. The arts can connect the mind and the spirit and help guide children from crisis to confidence. Multiple studies show how arts education not only decreases feelings of anxiety and depression but also improves all-around academic performance. As schools reopen, the California Department of Education asks all schools to keep the emotional well-being of all at the forefront of their decision making. The arts are essential to meet this challenge.

Are the Arts Part of Your School District Plan?

By September 30, school districts must adopt a Learning Continuity and Attendance Plan that explains how student learning continuity will be addressed during the COVID-19 crisis in the 2020–21 school year. (It would be tempting to abbreviate this plan as "LCAP," but insiders are calling it a "learning continuity plan" instead to avoid confusing it with the traditional LCAP it replaces this year.) The template is available only as a Word Document that can be downloaded.

Two components of the plan provide opportunities for parents to advocate for inclusion of the arts:

(1) Full Curriculum: School districts must explain how students will have access to a full curriculum. Below is a screen grab of that section of the template.

(2) Mental Health and Social and Emotional Well-Being. The plan must also explain how the district will support mental health and social and emotional well-being. (Did someone just say “teach the arts?”) Below is a copy of that section.

Speak up for the Arts

The school district must consult with the school community in developing its Learning Continuity Plan and provide an opportunity to submit written comments. This plan must also be presented at a public hearing for review and comment by members of the public, with options for remote participation.

This is your chance to find out how the arts are included in distance and classroom learning. In addition to speaking at the public hearing, you can also speak with your principal and the person in your district designated as the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) Coordinator.

What should you ask? Here are some suggestions from Kim Hoj, Co-President of the California Dance Education Association. She has experience as a dance educator, assistant principal and district VAPA / CTE coordinator.

Questions to ask your principal or VAPA director

Are all the arts embedded into the plan for distance learning?

Will my child have access to music, visual arts, theatre and dance?

What will the school day look like? When and how often will there be arts instruction?

Will my child have standards-based instruction taught by credentialed educators?

Will there be a teaching artist working with a credentialed educator?

How are we creating equity in the arts?

How are teachers approaching arts integration?

What are the subjects? How are teachers collaborating?

How can parents and our community support the arts?

Arts and Distance Learning Resources

Distance learning is new to everyone — parents, teachers, administrators and children. Here are some resources that can help take some bumps out of the road ahead as programs are refined this year.

The state of New Jersey has been widely recognized for its leading work to integrate arts into K-12 education, and its 126-page September Ready Fall 2020 Guidance for Arts Education offers practical advice for K-12 school administrators and arts educators. The New Jersey Arts Education & Social and Emotional Learning Framework, the first in the nation, is so strong that other states across the country are looking to adopt it.

Additional Resources


California Arts Education Framework and Distance Learning Resources
Arts Distance Learning Resources: San Diego County Office of Education


COVID-19 Best Practices from California Dance Education Association


Distance Learning for Music Educators: Resources


Theatre Education Distance Learning (Resource Sharing and Support Network)

For Parents

Parents' Guide to Visual and Performing Arts in California Public Schools

Questions & Comments

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user avatar
Anna Meza February 8, 2021 at 9:43 am
The second paragraph states, "California law specifies that the arts should include instruction (in grades 1-6) or courses (in grades 7-12) in four disciplines . . ." Please provide some clarity as the sentence implies that California law allows an option for arts education in grades 1-6 or grades 7-12.
user avatar
Alisa Sabshin-Blek August 24, 2020 at 12:59 pm
Budget cuts are severely impacting our arts curriculum. Children need the special creativity and learning that only comes through arts education!
user avatar
jroubanis August 11, 2020 at 2:17 pm
The connection between mental health and the arts is especially salient as districts are scrambling to develop distance learning frameworks that work for these times. I think this blog is a must read for every community decision-maker who wants the very best public education for children.
user avatar
Brenda Etterbeek August 5, 2020 at 7:23 am
Thank you for the list of resources. Sadly, our district is in financial challenges and our arts were just cut back. Frustrating times.
user avatar
Vivian Chan August 4, 2020 at 5:53 pm
Thank you for providing this useful "Additional Resources" list. It takes some creative thinking to run classes in the arts virtually, but it's doable. Many school districts are figuring out how distance education will work, and have not prioritized the arts. I certainly hope that after the "core" classes are figured out, that all students in California receive opportunities to take courses in the arts.
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