Educational Theatre Association (EdTA), a national non-profit organization headquartered here in Cincinnati, announced the third year of their JumpStart Theatre program will expand to three new schools for the 2017-2018 school year. The three-year pilot program is a collaborative effort between EdTA and New York-based Music Theatre International and ITheatrics, designed to build sustainable musical theatre programs in middle schools that have none.

Joining the program this round are Cincinnati-area schools Clark Montessori High School, the nation’s first Montessori high school; Roberts Academy, where many students are English language learners; and Oyler School, part of a growing national movement aimed at revitalizing schools by combining academic, heath, and social services under one roof.

The six schools that joined the program in the first two years—Holmes Middle School, Gamble Montessori High School, Finneytown Middle School, Aiken New Tech High School, Gilbert A. Dater High School, and Felicity-Franklin Middle School—are currently engaged in rehearsals of their JumpStart Theatre shows and will present public performances in March and May.

JumpStart includes professional development for the teachers, many of whom have never had experience leading a musical theater program.

"It’s not about putting on a musical once; it’s about creating a sustainable program,” said Julie Cohen-Theobald, EdTA executive director, in an interview with ArtsWave last May.

The pilot program serves the JumpStart Theatre Research Project, led by Dr. James Catterall, director of the Centers for Research on Creativity. The research measures annual and cumulative impact of JumpStart on student development in behavioral areas including creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration, and other areas including problem-solving, self-efficacy, attitudes about arts and general outlook for the future.

The announcement coincides with Theatre in Our Schools Month (TIOS), a grassroots effort to draw attention to the benefits of theatre in schools across our country, and the need for more access to quality programs. EdTA is one of three organizations nationally spearheading the movement. Students and teachers participating across the nation will stage events honoring National Arts Advocacy Day, March 20 and 21