Using School-Owned Instruments
November 14, 2012 at 3:07 pm #15440
This is my first year teaching at my current school, and on the first day of school when I asked my 6th grade beginning band students who had an instrument (or had one lined up to use). Eleven out of thirty-two kids. Eleven. Twenty-one kids needed to buy or rent an instrument or (in most cases) expected to use a school instrument.
A bit of back story: The previous director tried to convince the administration (i.e. superintendent; principal is in favor) that students using school-owned instruments should be required to pay a rental fee for instrument maintenance. He denied that request on the grounds that he wants this school to be the cheapest to attend (lowest textbook rental fees). He has no reason to care about maintenance because the school does not pay for any repairs (not just band, but also art, drama, FACS, even shop). The boosters pay for everything. When they purchase an instrument, it is automatically donated to the school, but the school will not pay to have it repaired.
Anyway, I’m wondering what your policies are regarding this issue. How do you decide who has to rent/buy and who gets to borrow for free? What happens if a child severely damages an instrument or even destroys it? If you started this rental program after years of not requiring any monetary contribution, how did that change work for you?
Every bit of input is greatly appreciated!November 15, 2012 at 12:01 pm #15498
During the recruitment season (spring for us) I don’t make it known to anyone that there is the possibility of using school instruments. I am not sure exactly what you can do, short of sending home information for how to rent instruments to the kids in need and then go from there.
Kids who end up not being able to afford an instrument don’t always get a “freebie” from me either. I usually make sure they are a good kid and get good grades first. I have them sign a school-loaner agreement as well. If the instrument needs repaired for general reasons, I’ll cover it (I’ll=booster account). If they damage it, they pay for it. Make sure that is spelled out clearly in the agreement and make sure the parent signs it as well. I typically don’t have kids pay a monthly fee, but they are expected to buy their own mouthpiece.
Out of 60 beginners I usually have around 5 school owned instruments (never any percussion).November 16, 2012 at 8:30 am #15572
1. Kids don’t get school owned instruments. Period. If a parent approaches us about not being able to afford an instrument, we always try to work something out (usually someone in the community donates, or we come up with something, etc). But it is not our “policy” to provide instruments to kids. This creates all sorts of problems.
2. Tubas, baritones, french horn, etc can use school instruments….but we do switch overs for these instruments. We don’t start them.
3. If the school owns the instrument (as they do all of ours) then they pay the repair bill. See if your local stores have a comprehensive maintenance plan (you pay a flat fee, and can send your instruments out whenever). I pitched that as a way to save money. Try that. Ask your principal what’s cheaper…maintaining your car, or buying a new one after driving it 50,000 miles without changing the oil.December 3, 2012 at 4:31 pm #16402
Most counties have a policy on this (often based on state law). In our county, under no circumstances can you REQUIRE a student to rent or purchase an instrument (or any school related material for that matter). As a matter of being a government agency, a school cannot recommend a vendor. This policy has been legally upheld in numerous states. Most states do not allow you to charge students to participate (e.g. fee or rental). You may be able to request donations, but very rarely will you be able to actually require that students pay.
As a rule of thumb, when establishing policies related to finances, ALWAYS check your board policy and get principal approval. While we may not agree with the policies, we are bound by them and to the students we teach. It is our obligation to afford them every opportunity to play an instruments. Middle and high school may be the only exposure these students EVER get to this kind of music and as educators, we should make every effort to offer these students the highest quality instruction possible, no matter a student’s financial situation.December 7, 2012 at 10:10 am #16450
Facing a dwindling economic base my district and the struggle to keep the instrumental numbers up, my district agreed to let us start a school rental plan a few years back for families that qualify for the “Free & Reduced Lunch” program. Students can rent an instrument from us for the two years they play in elementary school and then once in 7th grade they are on their own. I’ve found it a great way to always have low reeds and brass in my older bands too. We did an instrument drive a few years ago to collect instruments and anyone who donated an instrument received a tax write off for the donation.
In a letter we send home each fall parents are informed up front of the limited supply of school owned instruments (woodwinds, brass, strings, no percussion) to rent for those who qualify and that instruments are given out on a first come first served basis. Once we’ve collected the rental forms AND money the names are verified with the district, and instruments are given out. The rental fee is $20 which covers the school year, a lesson book, and supplies. Students return the instruments to us in the spring. Repairs under $75 are covered under our repair budget however we’ve now added a clause to the rental agreement that any repairs in excess of $75 will be the responsibility of the parent.February 12, 2013 at 10:51 am #20168
we use the free and reduced lunch data also. About 80% of my students use school-owned instruments and sign a $20 per year rental agreement. We waive the 20bucks if they’re on the free or reduced lunch program. It’s visually deceptive because of the appox 110 students who use a school horn only 4 are NOT on free and reduced lunch. So I got a big old $80 bucks through the rental program. I do make first time renting students and family sit through a lesson on care together and I enforce the “you break it you pay for the fix” policy with my admins at my back. Last year I had a kid break a clarinet beyond normal wear-and-tear and she did was not able to register for classes this last fall until she paid the amount. her family couldn’t do it, but my admins and her parents made a “work it off” agreement where she helped the custodial staff for minimum wage until it was paid off.
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