The arts are coming to McDuffie County through an unlikely source. Dearing and Norris Elementary Schools recently received violins from the Winn-Dixie School Rewards program.
"The irony of this is we just received the violins, and then we heard the stores may be closing," said Steve Rhodes, principal of Norris Elementary.
Dearing Elemnetary School Principal Linda Grisham shows some of the school's new violins to (from right) Jessie Tapley, Jennifer Miles and Jumious Morgan.
Mr. Rhodes said he has desired to implement a strings program into the school system for six years. Mr. Rhodes said the present band program in the middle and high school includes most instruments except strings, but "research shows that classical music education in early childhood increases brain development."
Last year, Mr. Rhodes checked into grants that would provide violins for students. Then he saw online that violins were in the grocery store's school rewards program. Norris Elementary had accumulated enough points to receive 21 violins.
Mr. Rhodes notified Dr. Linda Grisham, principal of Dearing Elementary School, of the violins that were available. Dearing Elementary qualified for 27 violins. Before placing their order, the principals contacted a violin teacher in Augusta to check the quality of the violins.
The plan to use the violins is based on the Suzuki Violin program, according to Dr. Mark Petersen, superintendent. Dr. Petersen said the lessons will begin as an after school program "to see how it goes." Pupils will be transported from their schools to Norris or Dearing Elementary for their lesson.
"This is thanks to some innovative principals who are willing to stick their necks out to help our children," Dr. Petersen said. "I told them if they could obtain the violins, I'd pop for the teacher."
Dr. Grisham, who will retire June 30, said she can't think of a more exciting project to leave her successor to work on.
"I'm leaving my power of a dream," she said.
Dr. Petersen said the violin lessons will not begin right away, but he hopes to find a teacher and start the program "about a month after school starts." If the program is successful, he will present it to the school board for consideration of implementing the Suzuki program into regular school hours.
"There's no telling where this will take us," he said.
Two other local schools will also benefit from the Winn Dixie program: Thomson Elementary received some instructional materials for their media center, educational games, and an art waxer, which will allow teachers to better display pupil's work. Crossroads received their choice of $500 cash or a new computer.