AKRON, Ohio — A change is coming to the Miller South School for the Visual Performing Arts in Akron. Incoming fourth-graders who want to attend the school will go through a different process than older grades.
After hearing community feedback, leaders at the school decided to do two weekends of workshops with school staff instead of taped solo performances or art portfolios for the youngest students.
"I already know there are dancers at studios who want to come here but I also want to find those dancers who haven't had the opportunity to go to a studio," said Ashley Watts, the dance instructor at the school. "That's why I'm losing sleep over putting together this process because I want that. I want to reach everybody who didn't have that opportunity before."
Watts was leading a group of 7th-grade students in her afternoon class on November 9. They were working on an end-of-the-year performance.
Students in this performing arts school have at least one art class every day. Some have more.
"So, it really is an opportunity to express, an opportunity to connect, and an opportunity to showcase the beauty of life through the lens of the students that we serve here," said school principal Carolyn Herstich.
After an open house, parents and students in the Akron Public School system said they want more access to the specialized programs offered at Miller South.
The change is starting with incoming fourth-grade students and could expand to older students depending on how the process goes, Herstich said.
The change coincides with a move made by Gov. Mike DeWine made on Oct. 28.
DeWine signed an executive order that gives up to $500 for children 6-18 years old in low-income families for extracurricular activities including music lessons. The money will be for the 2022-2023 school year.
"I mean, it makes me happy that it's being recognized," Watts said about the move from DeWine. "It's like a little cheer inside."
"It's therapeutic especially post-pandemic," Herstich said.
With an open call audition coming at the end of November and in early December, leaders here are prepared for larger class sizes next fall but aren't promising sports for everyone.
"Sometimes we think that if we don't have a happy ending that it wasn't worth it but it still is," Watts said.
For anyone interested in the process, there is more information on the school's website.