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Petition calls for after-school theater, music in Baldwin

Student launches petition to support the arts

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Baldwin High School students, alumni and community members are calling for the return of after-school theater and music activities.

“Recently, it has been announced that Baldwin High School will soon begin contact sports, and there has been no word on the music and theatre departments’ after-school activities,” the petition reads.

Baldwin High School senior Jaylin Thomas launched a Change.org petition on Feb. 15 that had garnered 1,020 signatures as of press time Monday.

“My fellow classmates, alumni and I have discussed ways in which we can follow proper Covid protocols while still putting on an enjoyable show for the community,” Thomas said. “This will provide a last chance for seniors to showcase their hard work and talent and will be a way during these difficult times to lift the town spirit.”

Thomas maintained that throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, students have struggled to take part in the activities that they love, in and out of school.

“It’s really important to students that we get this opportunity to put on a show for the community, the school, and for ourselves and each other,” he said. “As someone who has been a part of the music community in Baldwin for quite some time, I feel we deserve the opportunity to work towards putting on a musical this spring.”

Thomas said he was grateful for all that the district administration has done to allow other activities, such as basketball, wrestling and other sports, to resume, as well as to his teachers for their efforts “to make school as normal as possible.”

He, his classmates and BHS alumni said the theater and music departments could follow certain safety precautions, including wearing masks, social distancing in the auditorium, limiting rehearsals if needed and using Zoom for rehearsals.

“There is no reason why music and the theatre department shouldn’t be having livestream shows,” the petition reads.

Many comments on the petition asserted that it was unfair to restart contact sports and not after-school theater or music programs.

“The arts are a very important outlet for students and often provide a safe haven where kids are accepted for who they are,” Michelle Jennings wrote after signing the petition. “The arts/theatre environment is one of collaboration, creativity and inclusivity. If sports are being allowed, there are safe ways to also make theatre an option.”

“On stage and off, the arts represent work ethic, communication, memorization and a stance on the artistic significance of the human condition,” Tyler Weinstein wrote after signing. “Theater allows people to openly express their passions and crafts not only on stage, but off stage as well . . . It is a huge deal to allow one to hone their craft, just as a football player hones their craft for college recruitment and scouts if one may plan to have a career in football. Let them perform!”

The petition is addressed to Superintendent Dr. Shari Camhi, Baldwin High School Principal Dr. Neil Testa and Director of Fine and Performing Arts Andre Poprilo.

“The Baldwin School District has done everything in their power to ensure the safety of students and staff during this health crisis. We have followed the regulations mandated by New York State and the Department of Health and in so doing, some of the opportunities that have been afforded to our students in years passed needed to change,” Camhi said in a statement. “Since the first day of school, we have been doing everything possible to ensure that our students in the Fine and Performing Arts still have opportunities to shine and do what they do best while taking the limitations caused by the pandemic into consideration.”

She referred to the Baldwin Virtual Cabaret that is scheduled for Friday, when 21 student musicians will perform, and last week, when the district shared a video of orchestra students giving individual performances that were edited together to give the effect of a group performance of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

“These are just two examples of the countless and creative solutions that have come out of this year,” she said. “We will continue to ensure that our students, all students, receive the education deserved, despite the current times.”