Gazette-Mail editorial: Saving arts in schools essential

There’s an ad from Dick’s Sporting Goods that shows Little League baseball, soccer and football programs reading a “to whom it may concern” letter telling them their program has been nixed because of a lack of funds.

It’s for the retail giant’s foundation, which seeks to keep sports programs afloat and supplied in areas in need. We’re not aware of many sports programs having to shutter here lately because of that problem, but we’re sure, if it did happen, the community or surrounding communities would jump in and do everything they could to save the program. Just look at the outpouring of support athletic programs at Herbert Hoover received after the devastating 2016 flood.

Would that same level of enthusiasm exist if the threat were shutting down a music or arts program? We’d like to think it would, although it’s really hard to say.

The Gazette-Mail podcast, “Mountain State Morning,” featured a segment on arts and music funding in the region, focusing on the Poca High School marching band, whose members are wearing 14-year-old uniforms that look every bit their age, and playing old equipment, some rigged with duct tape on the straps that attach an instrument to the player’s body.

The band doesn’t bother entering some competitions — the lifeblood of many high school marching bands across the country — because they’re a smaller unit than most in the region, and the entry fee wouldn’t really be worth it. One student points out the band’s uniforms are so shabby it’s probably an immediate turnoff for any competition judge.

This isn’t a unique situation for smaller schools in West Virginia, or across the country for that matter. When funding gets allotted, in many cases music and arts programs take a back seat. Sometimes it’s out of necessity, sometimes out of priority, because of a perceived lack of value.

Really, though, all extracurricular activities need to be viewed as vital to a school — sports, academic teams, music, arts — all of it.

In many states, and in West Virginia more than most others, these activities provide crucial structure for students that keep them engaged in school. They allow students to broaden their horizons and provide valuable social interaction. They provide a creative and competitive outlet, whether it’s a football game, a band competition or an academic team meet. And, frankly, in a state ravaged by poverty and addiction, these extracurricular programs can often be the difference in what path a student follows.

We hope Poca can reach its fundraising goal for new uniforms, and we encourage anyone who can to donate, or to take a look around in their own community and see what programs need their time and money. These programs are more vital than many will ever know.

Funerals for Sunday, October 20, 2019

Fink, Janice - 1:30 p.m., United Disciples of Christ Church, South Charleston.

Honaker, Dewey - 2 p.m., Arnett Assembly of God Church, Arnett.

Jenkins, Tina - 2 p.m., Hafer Funeral Home, Elkview.

Payne, Joseph - 3 p.m., Gateway Christian Church, St. Albans.

Snyder, Janice - 4 p.m., Snodgrass Funeral Home, South Charleston.

Vance, Kendall - 2 p.m., Handley Funeral Home, Danville.