A GoFundMe page is circulating to resurrect orchestra class for fourth-graders at Winona Area Public Schools, a widely lauded part of the music department’s curriculum that fell prey to budget cuts in April.
Meredith Mihm, a parent and professor of piano at Viterbo University, started the fundraiser last week after speaking with parents and others who were concerned about the program’s disappearance among more than $2 million in cuts to the school district’s 2019-20 budget.
The school district will continue offering orchestra for 5th- through 12th-graders next year.
Mihm and those who support the effort seek to raise $20,000 by the end of July, an amount she says was suggested by the district’s human resources director in spring 2018 and would be enough to reinstate the program this year.
“Twenty-thousand dollars just seemed like such a low number,” she said.
The page shows 37 contributors, including school board member Allison Quam, have raised $4,255 as of Thursday afternoon.
Quam and fellow board member Karl Sonneman also took a stab at bringing back fourth-grade orchestra at the board’s June 19 meeting where the full budget was approved, a motion that was shot down with a 4-2 vote.
And before the cuts, students, staff and community members flocked to meetings and public forums to argue for saving the popular program.
A scene one speaker described as “eerily similar” to the year prior unfolded at the Winona M…
“Once something is gone, it’s harder to convince people of the need to recover it,” Mihm said. “It’s easier when people still see it.”
The school district said it would be up to board members to decide whether the $20,000 is enough to sustain the program should the funds be raised.
In a statement, communications coordinator John Casper said the district is aware of the fundraising effort and is “delighted to see several community members so passionate about the education that our students receive.”
Mihm said she is confident that community members will pitch in to hit the $20,000 mark and is equally confident that that amount will be enough to cover the program.
“Everyone that I talked to really believes in this,” she said.
Culver’s will host a Culver’s Night on July 29 to raise funding for fourth-grade orchestra, Mihm said, and she will be at HyVee Friday and Saturday to speak with people and explain why they should donate to the GoFundMe’s cause.
In the case that enough money is not raised or the school board declines to use it to reinstate the program, the page says, all donations will be fully refunded.
“I think that we can get this back now. … We won’t be the generation, the people that lost orchestra for our kids,” Mihm said. “We can save this.”