London high school principal says 'nothing unusual' about cuts to specialized program

The principal of H. B. Beal Secondary School is trying to allay concerns after social media posts from a student gained traction in the London region over the weekend.

Olivia Ho, a Grade 12 student, shared her outrage online over the school’s decision to cut its prestigious musical theatre program from three courses to two. This year’s musical theatre program at Beal has 16 students enrolled.

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In a Facebook post that had more than 1,800 shares by Monday afternoon, Ho wrote that the performing arts at Beal were “under attack.”

EDIT: Please read the update on my page as well. The performing arts at H.B. Beal are under attack. This Friday,…

Posted by Olivia Ho on Saturday, February 8, 2020

She said students learned of the program change a day after the add/drop period ended, meaning courses were already finalized for the term. Ho told Global News Radio 980 CFPL it was an odd time to make the announcement.

“It’s not typically, in my experience, used as an opportunity to add or take away classes in general. Usually, whatever’s scheduled to run at the beginning of Semester 2 does run, regardless of enrolment. I don’t know why that’s changing now.”

She added that she’s concerned for the program’s future.

“I hope for education going forward that every student, no matter what they do, no matter what their passion is, continues to be respected and valued and all of their course offerings are available for them,” she said.

“I hope that everyone finds a course where they feel like they belong, and I feel like that’s in danger.”

The Thames Valley District School Board addressed the controversy on Sunday, releasing a statement to its website stating that changes to classes in Semester 2 are “a normal part of the staffing and scheduling process, often resulting from a decrease in course enrolment” and that it is unrelated to changes in education funding.

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Speaking with Global News Radio 980 CFPL on Monday afternoon, Beal principal Tracy Langelaan echoed those sentiments, adding that the course will be reinstated if enrolment picks up next year.

“The musical theatre program at Beal is not threatened. Musical theatre will be offered next year. In addition, there’s nine high schools — Beal’s just one of them — that offer specialized programs in the arts and culture,” she explained.

“Really, nothing unusual is happening.”

Langelaan also said students in the program this semester will still receive full credit.

— With files from Global News 980 CFPL’s Andrew Graham

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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