Coolidge Unified School District CUSD logo

COOLIDGE — The Coolidge Unified School District will be teaming up with local nonprofit organization ACT 1 Community Theatre to provide an after-school drama program for students at Coolidge Junior High School and Coolidge High School.

The agreement is the result of a contract between the community theater organization and the district, which was approved by members of the Governing Board during a May 13 livestreamed meeting.

The after-school program will be provided to students of CJHS/CHS during the 2020-21 school year in lieu of offering drama courses throughout the school day.

The program will be offered at no cost to students who choose to participate, with CUSD covering the costs for the organization to put together a fall and spring production. For the first production, that amount will be about $8,700, which will cover the participation of up to 30 students as well as the purchase of script rights and licenses.

But the contract stipulates that the amount could be subject to change should more than 30 students express interest in the program. CUSD plans to eventually cap the number of participating students as it would with any other course offered through junior high and high school, Director of Businesses Services Alyssa Unger said.

The district will wait to gauge the amount of interest from students before implementing a limit on the number allowed in the program, primarily because the district hopes to drive home the message that the program will be just like any other extracurricular activity, she noted.

“We want to make sure it’s not (looked at as) just something fun to do after school. It’s for students that actually want to participate in this program from start to finish,” she said. “We’ll have to talk to those kids when they express interest in enrolling. It’s not after-school fun, it’s just like a sport — you’ll participate from the beginning to the end.”

Initially part of the consent agenda, the item was pulled off by board member Keith Seaman for further discussion.

“I want drama at the school, and I understand that it’s been difficult to get a drama teacher. We haven’t had one and (when we had one) it didn’t work out,” Seaman said. “So this is probably the best we can do right now.”

However, Seaman expressed some concern over which age groups would have the opportunity to participate in the productions.

The productions, Unger said, will be open to students in grades 7-12.

ACT 1 will provide acting, improvisation and auditioning classes to students starting on Aug. 10. The classes will run from 3:30 to 5:50 p.m. every Monday and Wednesday.

Following the first production, CUSD administrators will then be given the opportunity to select the spring production.

The contract was approved by the board in a 4-0 vote.

During the meeting, Unger also provided board members with an update on the status of the lease agreement between the district and Artisan Village of Coolidge.

In April, the Coolidge City Council voted to take over the lease of North School, the property that currently houses Artisan Village and the Coolidge Chamber of Commerce.

The property has been the subject of a lease agreement between CUSD and the Coolidge Performing Arts Center Foundation — the umbrella organization for Artisan Village — since 2015. Now the city will assume the lease with hopes of using the property for Parks and Recreation activities among other uses.

Despite the new assignment, the original lease-purchase agreement, which includes the amount of the monthly lease payments and the purchase price, stands, Unger said.

Under the current lease-to-purchase agreement, half of the lease payments go toward the principal owed on the property.

“They (the city) get to pick up right where the Artisan Village left off,” Unger said. In 2024, the city will also have the option to pay a lump sum of $119,000 to purchase the property.

The option to purchase the property outright, Unger noted, is one that is available to the city at the end of each year as well.

“I think that is wonderful,” board member Lisa Garrett said of the decision.

The sentiment was shared by board member Kris Gillespie.

“I think it’s going to be a great thing for the city of Coolidge,” she said.

The matter was brought before the school board for informational purposes only, Superintendent Charie Wallace said, and no action was taken.

Wallace also provided board members with an update on the 2020 Hall of Fame, which will be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The postponement, Wallace said, could be in effect for up to a year.