COOLIDGE — A financial issue could change the fate of a cherished historic school building.
For seven years Calvary Chapel church has leased from the Coolidge Unified School District the building that used to house Kenilworth School on Coolidge Avenue. At first, the church agreed to pay $2,500 per year, but the rent was reduced to $2,300 when the church agreed to do the yard work.
Further, Calvary Chapel has previously been using volunteers to handle most maintenance issues, but under new leadership, it is asking the district to take control of that. While this is a traditional responsibility for a landlord, it is not a trivial request for the district to consider, as the building is now very old and requires extensive work, such as roof repairs and a new paint job.
“You want to preserve the building because it’s beautiful,” said CUSD Business Manager Alyssa Unger. “It serves a great purpose, right so. So it’s a tough spot.”
The old school predates the city of Coolidge and joined the district after being independent for many years.
Superintendent Charie Wallace said she has talked to other parties who are interested in purchasing the property, but the district has a commitment to use the building for community purposes. Still, she questioned the wisdom of taking personnel away from school buildings to work on a non-educational facility. In fact, spending money in such a way is something the district cannot do.
“We don’t have the money to fix old buildings that are not being used for students,” Wallace said. “We have to decide whether we still want to be in the real estate business.”
One option raised by the church, Unger said, is to enter into a lease-to-purchase agreement. She raised potential concerns over entering into another such agreement after the turbulent history of a similar one with the Coolidge Performing Arts Center Foundation for the Artisan Village.
The other issue with that proposal is that nobody knows the value of the Kenilworth property. Wallace said the cost of getting the appraisal would be $3,500 and could take months to finish, while the lease is expiring before it would likely be completed.
Board President T.J. Shope raised a future consideration. The proposed north-south freeway that has been proposed to go through Coolidge from Apache Junction to Eloy would likely be within a mile of that property, something that could cause the value to rise sharply.
The board proposed going to Calvary with a proposal for a month-to-month lease extension while the district works to get the building appraised. Unger said she would bring more information to the January school board meeting.