Forsyth County Schools leaders took county commissioners on a tour of East Forsyth High School on Thursday, March 25, to give them an inside look at the county’s newest high school before it opens in July.
Director of Construction Tom Wening led the tour along with Director of Facilities Greg Pruitt, Chief Facilities Officer Matt Wark and East Forsyth Principal Jeff Cheney.
Commissioners Cindy Jones Mills, Laura Semanson and Molly Cooper all followed them to tour just some of East Forsyth, which Wening said will be one of the largest schools in the county at 450,000 square feet sitting on 90 acres of land just off of Jot Em Down Road in north Forsyth.
Board of Education Chairwoman Kristin Morrissey, Director of Communications Jennifer Caracciolo and Administrative Assistant Sandi Abbott also attended on the tour, and Director of College and Career Development Valery Lowe was there to provide more information on career pathways that will be offered on campus.
The group started the tour at 9 a.m. Thursday, and as they began to walk through, the commissioners immediately noticed dynamic wood panels and pops of color in the school’s hallways, which Cheney said are also wider than those in their other traditional high schools.
“When you have a big school like this sometimes, it’s just white or cement cinder blocks,” Cheney said.
Caracciolo and Pruitt both had the idea to add the wood panels and color to the hallways so that they would not feel “clinical” with mostly plain white walls and flooring. Mostly, the colors featured in the design are the school spirit colors: orange, navy and dark grey.
While on the tour, the commissioners and school leaders were mostly impressed with the school’s media center, courtyard and early childhood education room.
The media center has many different rooms, including Google rooms meant to give students a quiet place to study or work, more open rooms where teachers could bring classes, conference rooms for classes or professional development for staff and more.
With plenty of natural light from floor-to-ceiling windows, Cheney said there will be plenty of soft, comfortable seating available to students and staff, and plenty of spaces for them to relax or study.
“This is the hub of the school, so we’re designing it that way,” Cheney said. “We’re not creating a library. It’s a mixed-use space.”
Wening said the courtyard, sitting outside toward the middle of the school, will also serve as a great hub for students during the school day.
While some other schools in the county have a gathering space for students, Caracciolo explained the courtyard at East serves as a bigger space for more students, and there is more for them to do in that space. After opening Denmark, the district received feedback from community members saying the concrete courtyard there limits what they can do. In this courtyard, students have both concrete steps to sit on and a grassy area to enjoy in the warmth of the spring and fall.
Going into the classrooms for the early childhood education career pathway students, commissioners were also shocked to see the room is outfitted with a kitchen and small laundry room. Cheney explained this is because, within the next two or three years, he and other school leaders hope to transform the room into a preschool where students can intern with children directly on campus.
“The programs we have right now do not have that young child care component to it, and so ultimately, this site will have a day care,” Caracciolo said. “They’ll be able to do that hands on, which is great since this is so far east and they don’t have other schools that they can go to. Like North, their students go to Coal Mountain [Elementary] to work or they go to North Middle and work. Here, you’re kind of isolated.”
Before heading forward on the tour to the basketball court, theater, band room and more, Wening introduced the group to James Chance with Carroll Daniel Construction, the company tasked with building the school. Everyone thanked him and his team for the work they did getting the large school together ahead of schedule.
“[They did] a phenomenal job delivering this project, but especially under all of the dynamics and challenges of the [COVID-19] pandemic,” Wening said.
After the tour, the commissioners said they were excited for the opening of the new school this summer along with the district’s leaders.
“I couldn’t be more excited for the east community,” Cheney said. “This is an amazing facility.”