Wichita students receive class credit for competitive dance

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Wichita Public Schools is now offering class credit for students who compete in dance outside of school hours.

“These kids who spend hours of their lives after school and on the road competing in dance festivals across the United States from USD 259 can now do more than just go and do homework and have all that responsibility. They are allowed to get fine arts credits for their work,” said Wichita Southeast High School teacher Joseph Clay.

The program is in its first year. Clay is overseeing what he calls ‘a test phase’ and its curriculum.

“I am going to be working personally with two students to find out how these standards can be implemented and how they can be pushed out to other school counselors and other affiliates who will take on the job to establish credit for these children,” Clay said.

Samantha Sipes, 16, and Holly Sipes, 14, compete in partner dance competitions across the globe. The sisters are part of the pilot program.

“I find it pretty amazing because I am working outside of school for something I really love,” said Samantha.

Samantha and Holly frequently travel to out-of-state competitions. Their father has to take them out of school to do so.

“Sometimes he will take us out near the end of the day or we just won’t go to school and then we have a lot to make up when we come back and it’s just really crazy and hectic during the weekends,” said Holly.

Samantha said she struggled to keep up with all of her course work last year because of the absences.

“She spent a lot of time on the road. She spent a lot of time doing homework and she had a hard time keeping up,” Clay said. “She spent just as much time practicing for dance as she did doing work for the schools.”

Samantha and Holly’s dad teamed up with Clay to come up with a solution. After about five months of research and collaboration, the school board passed dance for school credit.

Clay said the curriculum is vigorous. It includes research on the history of dance, reflection writing and choreography.

“They are not getting out of anything for this. In fact, we are pushing them to be more than just dancers. I think that is what is really important here because education goes beyond these high school walls,” Clay said.

Samantha and Holly will receive three fine arts credits each semester. All USD 259 students are eligible for the credit. They can appeal to their school counselor.

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