BELTING IT: Santa Monica High students perform ‘Someone' during Cafe Samo on Friday night. (Paul Alvarez Jr. editor@www.smdp.com)

Hundreds of students participated in Santa Monica High School’s fifth winter dance showcase this past December, and officials noted that attendance was so strong at previous editions of the event that two performances were scheduled this year.

At Malibu High School, 23 of 24 students in the Advanced Placement photography passed the AP Studio Art 2-D Design exam in the spring of 2014.

The developments pointed to an ongoing dichotomy in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, which is trying to make arts programming available to more and more students as it continues coping with a variety of funding challenges.

New partnerships and activities in arts disciplines came alongside major changes in how the Regional Occupational Program will operate and shortcomings in the district’s centralized fundraising model.

“This has been a unique year in our district,” said Janis Gabbert, chair of the district’s advisory committee on visual and performing arts.

Gabbert presented her committee’s work and recommendations to the Board of Education during its June 24 meeting, and further conversations are expected in the coming weeks. The school board plans to approve the committee’s 2015-16 goals by October.

The district is in the process of overhauling its popular ROP offerings to meet new state standards for career technical education.

ROP funding from the state for more than a dozen courses at Samohi and Malibu High — in digital design, film production, photography, acting, dance, stagecraft and technical theater — dried up last month, according to the committee’s report.

Gabbert urged the board to continue funding visual and performing arts courses that have been categorized under the ROP umbrella. More than 850 students took ROP courses this past year.

Meanwhile, this past school year was the first in which money from the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation’s centralized campaign was implemented, allowing the district to offer a smattering of new arts programs.

SMMEF, which raised about $2.3 million in a 17-month drive that officials hoped would bring in $4 million, supported arts programming in a big way. The foundation contributed more than $557,000 towards the expansion of visual and performing arts programming in elementary schools and paid for an additional $346,000 worth of arts activities in the district this past school year, according to the committee’s report.

The district made “substantial progress” in improving access to arts education, committee officials said, and Gabbert urged the school board to maintain funding for programming through a partnership with PS ARTS.

The partnership allowed 91 percent of elementary students to receive visual arts instruction, 78 percent to receive music instruction, 62 percent to receive theater instruction and 34 percent to receive dance instruction.

Other benefactors have also helped the district on its quest to provide arts enrichment for all students. Money from the Peggy Bergmann Arts Endowment Fund, for example, was used to pay for instruments and semi-private lessons for several hundred financially disadvantaged students.

“It’s a huge closing of the achievement gap we’re making happen,” Gabbert said.

Contact Jeff Goodman at 310-573-8351, jeff@www.smdp.com or on Twitter.

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