NYC's Professional Performing Arts School Is Fundraising to Save Waterwell Drama Program | Playbill

Education News NYC's Professional Performing Arts School Is Fundraising to Save Waterwell Drama Program

The school says the program, co-founded by Arian Moayed, will close operations next month following budget cuts.

Professional Performing Arts High School

Update, March 15: A statement from Waterwell disputing claims from the Department of Education has been added below. This story was originally reported March 14.

New York City's Professional Performing Arts School is faced with losing one of its drama programs, offered in collaboration with Waterwell, due to budget cuts, a claim that the New York City Department of Education disputes, according to a report in Chalkbeat.

Parents and students were reportedly informed earlier this week that the Waterwell program will be forced to shutter April 12 unless a funding shortfall can be filled. Students have responded by launching a GoFundMe aimed at raising $102,000, the amount of that shortfall (the program reportedly needs around $80,000 to continue). As of time of publication, the effort has raised about 40 percent of that goal.

"We are the 7th grade students at The Professional Performing Arts School in NYC," reads the appeal. "Due to unfortunate budget cuts our performing arts program was cut short and will be ending early in April for both middle school and high school! This affects hundreds of students and we are heartbroken to have such a horrible thing happen. Please help donate to bring back our program that brought so many students joy, and made their dreams come true! Thank you so much, we really appreciate you making a difference in the children that [are] the future of our world!"

The program features acting classes led by professional actors, offering middle and high school drama and musical theatre students a conservatory-style training option. Waterwell, co-founded by stage and screen star Arian Moayed, has led the program within PPAS for 13 years.

PPAS has a long list of distinguished alumni, including Claire Danes, Jesse Eisenberg, Sarah Hyland, Alicia Keys, Taylor Momsen, Justin Peck, Jeremy Allen White, and Monét X Change, among many others. White signal-boosted the current fundraising effort with an Instagram share, drawing public attention to the cause.

Chalkbeat reports that Education officials dispute the school's claim that budget cuts caused the funding shortfall, claiming that Waterwell had been charging above what the school could afford for some time.

In a statement released by Waterwell March 15, the company disputes this characterization. The company claims media reports that they were told of cuts earlier in the year or changed their budget are false, writing, "All of this is categorically not true, and we are astounded that statements were made by the DOE that perpetuated such falsehoods."

In a timeline of the incident shared by Waterwell, the company says that a budget and programming plan was submitted to PPAS' principal at the beginning of the school year. Waterwell says they were initially told that only 80 percent of that budget would be released to them, with the remaining funds to follow. That situation, they say, changed January 24, when they were notified that the additional funding would not be made available after all. The following day, PPAS' principal reportedly reversed course and told Waterwell to "'proceed forward as originally planned,'" only for this to reverse again as of February 29. The statement also shares that money from the student fundraising effort cannot go directly to Waterwell, and will instead be given to PPAS PTA and distributed as they see fit.

“It is Waterwell’s hope that in the coming weeks the funding can be restored, the program made whole, and the students able to continue their training,” the company writes in the statement.

The program's fundraiser can be found here.

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