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Brooklyn Middle School Launches Campaign to Save Dance Program

Fundraiser for MS447 Dance Program
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The More Than Math & Science Campaign

BOERUM HILL — A neighborhood middle school is raising funds to save a dance program that was eliminated because of budget cuts.

Parents at The Math & Science Exploratory School MS447, located at 345 Dean St., launched the “More Than Math & Science” campaign to raise $70,000 to keep their eight-year dance program.

The funds would cover the dance instructor’s annual salary, which was cut from the school budget, and “make a statement [to the DOE] that these programs are not dispensable,” said PTA member Myra Klockenbrink.

The PTA has already received $20,000 from within the school community and hopes to raise another $50,000 through an Indiegogo campaign, which they launched this month.

“It’s a big loss to the school,” said Klockenbrink, whose daughter, Ella, is in the seventh grade.

The 10-year-old school faced about $250,000 to $300,000 in budget cuts last year, said Parent Coordinator Julia Castro, who was unclear on the exact number.

Along with the dance program, the cuts eliminated a school social worker’s job and affected their ability to purchase new technology, like iPads and smart boards, for next year.

According to the Department of Education, "there were no budget cuts to schools in FY14."

"School budgets fluctuate annually based on the number of registered students, needs, and other school specific factors. Principals are responsible each year to align resources, and have autonomy over making decisions about how to manage their budget and fund programs," a DOE spokesman said, in an email.

Dance is taught as a part of the school’s “talent program,” which also includes drama and music. Sixth graders are required to take all three programs during the year and choose just one for the next two years at the middle school.

Ella Klockenbrink, 12, had hoped to continue in the dance program after taking classes during her sixth grade. 

In the class, which held about 26 students, the aspiring dancers learned about different parts of the body, movement and combinations in African dance, ballet and hip-hop.

To Ella, the dance program is important “because it’s a class [where] we don’t have to sit at a desk,” she said. “It felt really good.”

Aside from dance, music and drama, the school also teaches a visual art class, which will be enveloped into the talent program if the cancelled classes cannot be retrieved, said Castro.

Castro said the dance class is popular at the school – particularly among the special education students, who make up about 30 percent of the school, according to InsideSchools.

“Dance is more expressive without being vocal,” she said. “It gives them a choice as to hot to express themselves.”

Once a week, students are taken to different New York City institutions, from the New York Aquarium to Brooklyn Botanic Garden, as a part of the school’s “hands-on” curriculum.

But MS447’s talent program is integral to the school’s academic side, said Klockenbrink, adding that the dance classes are not extracurricular activities.

And reading, math and science – “That’s only a portion of the entire education of the child,” she said.