Local high schools struggle to keep theater arts curricula intact during pandemic

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – The pandemic has shaken most public schools this year, disrupting not only classes and athletics, but drama programs as well. Kayla Martin reports on efforts to keep the performing arts alive.

“Think outside the box – how can we give our students who have passions in these areas other than sport the opportunity to participate,” said Dan Shepardson, director of student activities at Champlain Valley High School Union in Hinesburg.

This has been the big question surrounding performing arts programs in Vermont high schools during the pandemic. “Right now the drama department is exercising outside, masking, doing little cohorts,” Shepardson said.

“We started designing weekly workshops,” said Colby Skoglund, professor of design and technology at Burlington High School.

Both high schools are doing what they can to give some sense of normalcy, and the students agree with the priority. “The bonds we make with our classmates on stage is something you can’t get anywhere else,” said Lucy Kraus-Cuddy, a student at Burlington High School.

“Another kind of camaraderie when you do something for school or in an activity and then put on a play. There is a whole other link that goes in there. So I think it’s really important that they organize little things like that, ”said Anessa Conner, an elder at Burlington High School.

But as the cold arrives, it could send schools back to the drawing board for how to adapt safely. “Come in late October, in the next few days or even the next week or two, those tents will be gone,” Shepardson said.

The rented tents that CVU relied on are due to be moved soon. And at Burlington High School, where PCB contamination has shut down the building, there won’t be any indoor space until at least early next year.

“We don’t have a theater to host our theater troupe at the moment, so we are looking for spaces that will allow us to enter and play safely so that we can always be together and still have that community bond,” said Tammie Ledoux-Moody, the school’s drama director.

Officials from both schools say they are determined to work with any new guidelines that may come out in the future to continue to give that slice of normalcy to their students because they believe it is an integral part of their education.

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