COOLIDGE — Starting near the intersection with Vah Ki Inn Road, strung up on light posts that line Coolidge’s most traveled road, pictures of students in their caps and gowns made their debut along Arizona Boulevard on Monday afternoon.
They depict the smiling faces of the graduating class of 2020 for Coolidge High School and Coolidge Alternative Program. But though they may be graduating later this month, due to the coronavirus outbreak, high school seniors will not have the opportunity to proudly walk across a stage to accept their diploma or share the moment in the company of their friends, teachers, family and fellow classmates.
That fact has led school districts around the nation to find creative ways to honor this year’s graduating class.
In March, the Coolidge Unified School District announced during a meeting of the Governing Board that it planned to recognize graduating seniors in a special way.
And on Monday, CUSD officially unveiled the tribute, with individual pictures of the district’s 140 graduates going up along Arizona Boulevard.
Printed on banners, the graduation photos were hung along the boulevard through a joint effort between CUSD and the city of Coolidge.
The city, which already had an agreement with the district to light the Coolidge Water Tower red and blue on Thursday evenings to honor seniors, agreed to put up the banners at no charge to the district.
“This was a whole community effort,” Superintendent Charie Wallace said. “The city said ‘yes, we’ll put these up for our kids.’”
The banners serve as a way for the district to formally recognize graduating seniors in addition to the virtual ceremony CUSD will be hosting, tentatively scheduled for May 21.
“Because (students) were’t going to have a regular graduation ceremony where they could go across the stage individually and be recognized in front of their family, friends and community, we decided to do this instead,” Wallace said.
Following graduation, she noted that the district will make arrangements for students to receive their banners once they are taken down.
SACATON — The Arizona Department of Transportation has announced that it will be installing traffic lights at three different intersections near Sacaton along State Route 87.
According to a press release sent out by ADOT, the project will add traffic signals with “advanced warning beacons” at the intersections of SR 87 and Olberg (SR 187), Gilbert and northbound/southbound Sacaton roads.
The changes, ADOT Public Information Officer Garin Groff said in an email, are the result of an analysis of the intersections. To determine if the signals were warranted at the intersections, the department examined data such as crash history and delays from on a five-year period as well as current traffic volumes, projected traffic volumes and potential to improve traffic flow.
From 2012 to mid-2017, there were 21 crashes that occurred at the SR 87 and SR 187 intersection. Groff noted that the decision to install a traffic signal was based primarily on crash history and delays at the intersection during “peak travel times.”
Though the traffic volumes over a five-year period fall shy of the threshold used to justify the need for a traffic signal, he stated that the number is close and is anticipated to reach that level soon.
Likewise, at Gilbert Road, ADOT also took future traffic volumes into account when examining the need for a signal. Over a five-year period, the intersection was the scene of 24 automotive crashes.
However, while the number of accidents was high, the volume of traffic on Gilbert Road falls short of what would warrant a signal by ADOT’s standards. Rapid growth in traffic volume and the expectation that it will meet the threshold to justify a signal in the near future was the primary factor behind the decision to move ahead with the light, Groff said.
Sacaton Road had the fewest amount of auto wrecks, eight, out of the three intersections. However, the decision to add the signal was made based on delays caused during peak travel times.
ADOT said crews began preliminary work at the intersections Monday but added that motorists likely will not see traffic impacted in the initial stages. Construction on the project is anticipated to extend through the end of 2020 and may result in shoulder closures and speed limit restrictions.
In later phases, motorists should anticipate intermittent delays and flaggers, ADOT said.
COOLIDGE — With only so many options that families can take advantage of to entertain their little ones while following social distancing guidelines, a local Coolidge organization is tackling that problem and giving back to the community in a unique way.
On Friday evenings, the Sgt. J.D. Wadkins Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 3713 hosts a drive-in family movie night amid the ongoing stay-at-home order.
The VFW began the movie nights by showcasing a host of G-rated cartoons like “Tom & Jerry” on April 24.
Post member Tom Nucket came up with the idea and began using his own projector to show the cartoons on the side of the post’s building.
In recent months the post was painted white as part of an effort to renovate the building on Coolidge Avenue. The initial intent of the color choice was to enlist the help of a local organization or artist to paint a combat mural around the structure, said Derek Hulsebus, post commander.
But the post’s current color is now serving an unusual purpose, making it easier to project images onto the side of the building.
The movies are a small way the VFW to hopes support the community in the midst of a health crisis that has made providing some of the programs that support local veterans more challenging.
“I think we’re more worried about the community and the veterans in the community than we are about ourselves,” Hulsebus said. “Being able to run the programs for veterans, their families and the community has been kind of tough to do.”
But with the post recently receiving a $62,000 grant from the Gila River Indian Community to renovate its facility, the Coolidge VFW is taking advantage of this time to make necessary upgrades to its building.
Though the VFW may be showing cartoons, Hulsebus noted that the drive-in movies are not restricted to children.
“It’s for anybody in the community that wants to show up,” he said. “It’s not mandatory that people buy anything, and there’s no charge to come watch a movie.”
The post will also be giving out popcorn and sodas while supplies last. Interested attendees can park their vehicles on the east side of the building. Movies will begin showing at around 7:30 p.m.
FLORENCE — Bryan Shaw was sentenced to spend the remainder of his natural life plus 7.5 years in prison for the 2012 murder of his estranged wife.
Wednesday, Pinal County Superior Court Judge Delia Neal sentenced Shaw in a courtroom on the third floor of the county courthouse. With only 10 people allowed into the courtroom due to the COVID-19 global health emergency, others had to view the proceedings from other rooms inside the courthouse via video.
Shaw and the attorneys were in the courtroom, but a victim and family members were watching in an adjacent courtroom on the third floor while media and other spectators watched the courtroom proceedings from downstairs via a Webex online meeting system.
After less than a full day of deliberation, a Pinal County jury found Shaw guilty March 6 of the premeditated first-degree murder of his estranged wife, Denise Padilla-Shaw.
Shaw was charged with killing her on Aug. 26, 2012. He was accused by prosecutors of shooting her in the face and beating her lover Leslie Castillo with a baseball bat early that morning in Coolidge.
Padilla-Shaw’s body was found the following day by Pinal County Sheriff’s deputies wrapped in a blanket and left in the Picacho Reservoir area south of Coolidge.
Judge Neal said she had no choice but to hand down a natural life sentence for Padilla-Shaw’s murder. She added 7.5 years for the aggravated assault conviction associated with Shaw’s beating of Castillo. The sentence is to run consecutively to the natural life sentence.
During the sentencing hearing, victim and family members were allowed to make a statement to the court via video and one did.
“It’s been a very difficult seven years. It’s taken a toll on every single person — our friends and our loved ones,” said family member Monia Valencia.
Sentencing Shaw using the Webex system was new and had a few flaws and glitches along the way. Still, it worked and the hearing conformed with state and national COVID-19 guidelines as well as justice rules and laws.
Shaw was remanded to the Arizona Department of Corrections to spend the rest of his life in a state prison.