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Any Given Child

At its regular board meeting Tuesday, the Missoula County Public Schools Board of Trustees received an update on the SPARK! program, Missoula’s implementation of the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child Initiative.

SPARK! executive director Chris Neely said the program approaches enhancement of the arts in Missoula schools in three ways: more core arts classes, trips and other art-based experiences, and arts integration into other class curriculum.

She said Missoula is now one of 16 cities across the nation that is a part of the Any Given Child program, adding that the Kennedy Center has termed the city its "rising star."

Trevor Laboski, executive regional director for MCPS, said the school district conducted an assessment of its art offerings at the elementary level as part of Any Given Child. While it found that music was well supported, only two teachers were in place for teaching visual arts for all of the elementary schools, and drama and theater had almost no support at all. He said the new initiative is working to change that.

"People often talk about the arts and how important they are but it's rare that we actually put them into action," Laboski said.

On top of MCPS adding another full-time visual arts teacher at the elementary level, Laboski said one of the ways the program has already had an impact is that the district is working to train all of its K-8 teachers on how to integrate the arts into their normal curriculum.

"I feel like I just can't hear enough about this, I'm so so excited," said trustee Jennifer Newbold.

The meeting was the first for new trustee Korbin Bragstad, who the board picked in August to fill the seat vacated by Lisa Triepke.

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Superintendent Mark Thane also gave an update on the proposed $158 million in school bonds, which will be in front of voters in a mail-in election this fall. Ballots go out Oct. 12.

He said MCPS and its recently hired owner’s representative firm have already sent out a request for qualifications for architecture firms to develop plans for the rebuilding of Franklin School at its current site and renovations to Lowell School. Those projects will happen if the $88 million elementary school bond passes. The firm or firms picked for the job will develop scale models, initial drawings and conduct some public outreach.

“They will really start to bring those projects to life,” Thane said.

He also reiterated that the district is still in the process of choosing a location for a new Cold Springs Elementary School, if the elementary bond passes. MCPS is looking at four different parcels of land, including a pair that is not currently owned by the district, and Thane said they have been in contact with a commercial real estate agent to discuss possible costs if land acquisition is deemed necessary.

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