Fredericton High School arts classes no longer mandatory after ninth grade

Fredericton High School announced students will no longer be required to take any art or music courses after Grade 9. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Fredericton High School announced that students will no longer be required to take any art or music courses after Grade 9. 

These courses used to be mandatory for graduation but after the decision was finalized in March, only science, technology, engineering, math and English classes will be required for high school students. Cuts in the art programs have happened since 2019 with the Aboriginal art course.

Patty Saad, a former FHS and St. Thomas University graduate, was upset after hearing the news of the high school’s decision. She said she was part of the tech crew for the theatre department and music classes where she picked up the guitar. 

“Why are [art courses] of lesser importance than math and science and taking the mandatory English class? Why is it of lesser value?” said Saad.

She said she doesn’t think she would’ve made it through graduating if she didn’t take music and arts classes.

Another former FHS student, Elena Hrkalovic, decided to start a petition on to make arts classes mandatory again where she asks why it’s accepted that fields like music and visual arts are invalidated. The petition was started two weeks ago and as of April 4, it has more than 2,000 signatures. 

In an article by CBC, FHS principal Stephanie Underhill Tomlinson said “the direction FHS has taken is aligned with the provincial 9/10 Companion Document, supports greater student choice, and allows students to pursue their passions.” 

A petition calling for Fredericton High School to reverse its decision has gained more than 2,000 signatures. (Aaron Sousa/AQ)

Saad said the change will discourage people from taking art classes which will cause the numbers to decrease, making the school drop the classes completely.

“What if you know right off the bat that when you get into high school you don’t want to pursue the STEM field?” said Saad. “Why do you have to take those classes? Because you already know that you want to take music and art.”

She said art brings out creative freedom that can’t be found in anything else. Without arts, Saad said people aren’t getting important values received from arts classes.

“Either make it all mandatory and level the playing field, or don’t make it mandatory and let people choose freely,” said Saad. 

Kristina Lurchenko, another former FHS student, took Aboriginal art and fine arts courses during her time in high school. She said that’s where she learned a lot about Indigenous issues happening in Canada.

Lurchenko said she was shocked and offended by the FHS decision. 

“I feel like it’s a horrible decision because art classes in FHS help you grow not just as an artist but as a person,” said Lurchenko. “You’re taught about some issues and you’re able to express yourself.”

She said that people are losing an important part of their personality since art is part of self-expression and cancelling the requirement for arts courses cancels self-expression.

Lurchenko said that the school considers arts a hobby, but they shouldn’t forget that arts classes are part of someone’s career. She said if they’re making arts seem less than math or English, they’re offending and invalidating artists and their careers.

She said the art programs would help students fulfill their potential to learn about different skills that they might need like creative and critical thinking.

“In art classes we can express and talk about the important issues in the art itself. If we do not give art classes a voice, you make society less expressive.”