MANATEE -- After a creative protest at Manatee High School, district officials say they are committed to getting the school's kilns in the art department running again.
The kilns in Robert Reiber's ceramics class were shut down in February by the district's fire safety inspector and a fire inspector from the city of Bradenton. Both inspectors noted the kilns did not have adequate ventilation.
"This left the art teacher in a bind as he now has to give a high school credit to students in ceramics, but he is not able to teach ceramics because he has no kiln to fire the projects in," said Mana
tee High teacher Steve Parisian. "The district said that they did not have the money to install a kiln."
So Reiber and his students expressed their frustrations this week by unfurling a mural made from recycled paper of Edvard Munch's "The Scream."
Principal Don Sauer said the protest was unauthorized and that kilns were shut down for the students' safety.
"We are looking at ways to remedy this," Sauer said. "It is a complex issue involving proper ventilation and wiring. It is a matter of having time to do what needs to be done and fix it."
According to the district, the issues involving the kilns were forwarded to Todd Henson, the Manatee District's director of maintenance and operations. In February, Engineering Matrix Inc., an engineering firm in St. Petersburg, estimated the cost to fix the kilns would be about $3,700.
Because of financial difficulties, the capital projects team decided the district did not have the money to fix the kilns by the end of this school year.
Henson said he is working with Superintendent Rick Mills and other district staff to have the kilns at Manatee High operating again before the new school year starts on Aug. 19.
"Superintendent Mills has repeatedly stated he staunchly supports art programs in Manatee district schools and is determined to work with Manatee High and district staff to return the kilns to service," the district said in a statement released Thursday evening.
It went on to say the district will hire an engineering firm to remedy the problems associated with the kilns.
"We are very supportive of the arts here at this school," Sauer said.
Erica Earl, education reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7081.