By Marta Jiacoletti
As one of the oldest high schools in San Diego County, founded 95 years ago, Grossmont High School has always offered San Diego’s East County students the opportunity to experience the richness of the performing arts through music, drama and dance.
The performing arts program at Grossmont has had a significant impact on school culture and academic success. It also is recognized for its outstanding programs, so it’s no surprise that it is very popular among students. More than 800 of our 2,254 students are enrolled in one of our performing arts classes.
The Jimmie Johnson Foundation in 2009 awarded a $70,000 grant to purchase sound and lighting equipment to enhance student learning. In 2013, Grossmont received the award for Exemplary Arts Program in Visual and Performing Arts. This award recognizes schools that, in addition to high academic achievement indicated by their distinguished school qualifications, have committed time and resources to standards-based arts education programs that strengthen students’ creativity and encourage their personal interests. This award is directly related to the California Department of Education’s involvement in CREATE CA, a statewide coalition of organizations working to further arts education in California.
The Grossmont High School performing arts classes continue to attract intense student interest because the programs are meaningful and offer students great learning experiences.
Unfortunately, the quality of the learning is constrained by the current performing space, a 70-year-old building called the Old Gym, that does not support the needs of a contemporary performing arts program. The current performing space, the Old Gym, has an extremely old and outdated lighting system and very poor seating for audiences.
Further, the conditions of existing classrooms are deteriorating due to age and use. The dance room has no air conditioning, and the floor is cement, which is not an appropriate dancing surface. The drama room has poor ventilation and is too small for adequate seating during performances for a program of this size. The choir room does not have adequate electrical outlets to power musical instruments and not enough room to store risers and other equipment for performances.
Happily, there is a plan to construct a new Events Center on the Grossmont campus. Funded by the voter-approved Proposition U, the new complex will ensure our students learn in modernized classrooms that meet the standards for today’s top-notched programs.
A lawsuit filed by a small group of residents in Alpine has blocked this project from breaking ground and many others throughout the district, so it is my hope that the school district prevails in its defense of our students and schools.
The planned Events Center at Grossmont is to include a 300-seat theater for all performing arts shows, a black box classroom for drama, an area to build sets and store equipment, new classrooms for dance, choir and piano, and dressing rooms.
Educators will tell you high school departments should be housed in the same buildings. It increases collaboration between teachers and student achievement. But the performing arts classrooms are spread out across the school, and our facilities will be the last to be upgraded.
Performing arts — theater, dance and music — provides extraordinary enrichment to the high school experience. But a proper education experience requires a setting that is appropriate, and suited to the robust curriculum that modern performing arts programs demand.
At Grossmont, our performing arts students deserve to be taught in modernized classrooms that offer state-of-the-art performance experiences to increase the level of academic engagement and achievement.
—Jiacoletti has been a dance teacher for 16 years at Grossmont High School and was chair of the school’s performing arts department for 12 years.