Families, county leaders, teachers and community members gathered at East Forsyth High School for the first time Saturday, July 17, for its grand opening and ribbon cutting, marking the start to a new year in the Chestatee community.
Before the ribbon cutting, county and school leaders gathered in the auditorium for a grand opening ceremony, introducing everyone to the new, state-of-the-art high school.
Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden opened the ceremony, thanking Forsyth County Schools and Board of Education leadership for the hard work and hours they each put into making East Forsyth High School a reality.
Bearden gave thanks to BRPH for the school’s warm, welcoming design and Carroll Daniel Construction for its time spent building the school through the COVID-19 pandemic.
He also thanked many leaders within the FCS facilities department who have been instrumental in helping to bring about the new school, including Chief Facilities Officer Matt Wark, Director of Construction Tom Wening, Director of Planning Greg Pruitt and Facilities Planning Manager Jan Selz.
The superintendent saved a special thanks for East Forsyth Principal Jeff Cheney for his leadership, which led to a successful opening Saturday.
“Once we realized we were going to build East, the most important job for myself and the board at that time was to make sure we found the right leader for East Forsyth High School, and mission accomplished,” Bearden said. “Mr. Jeff Cheney is an experienced, outstanding leader.”
Cheney said it has been an honor for him and his team to have a hand in building the new school and bettering the surrounding community. Throughout the past year, he said he has gotten swept up in the project, making it his mission to create a nurturing environment for students, staff and leadership.
Standing inside the completed school on Saturday, Cheney was overwhelmed by how well the school turned out. Everything from the colors in the hallways, paneling and furniture was designed with students, teachers and families in mind.
“I might be just a little biased, but in my 26 years in education, this is the most amazing facility I’ve ever seen,” Cheney said. “It is gorgeous, beautiful and amazing.”
Board of Education Chairwoman Kristin Morrissey said she was excited to finally share the long-awaited school with the community.
“Today is the day,” Morrissey said. “Today we celebrate an exciting moment in time …. It seems like our school system has been under continuous instruction, renovation and expansion for the last 10, 15, 20 years.
“And over the years, there are a few questions us Board of Education members get asked a lot. Like, ‘It’s going to snow tomorrow. Are you guys going to close school?’ Or the ever important, ‘Who’s going to be the new high school football coach?’ But surely the top question we’ve heard over the years is, ‘When are you all going to build East Forsyth High?’”
That growing anticipation was made apparent at the ribbon cutting ceremony as school and district leaders walked outside through the front doors of East Forsyth to find a huge crowd of families, students and community members waiting with bated breath to walk through the hallways for the first time.
There at the front of the school, they kicked off the ceremony, starting with the raising of the flag.
Members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9143 hoisted the flag while student Brook Rhobotham sang the national anthem. Following the flag ceremony, East Forsyth cheerleaders raised spirits while Cheney cut the blue ribbon separating the crowd from East Forsyth’s front doors.
As soon as the ribbon was cut, the crowd filed in, spreading out through the school’s wide hallways and 450,000-square-foot campus.
Using maps of the campus provided at the front of the school, families explored the classrooms, stopping inside the band, chorus, art, engineering and architecture classrooms and more to see what life on campus will be like and ask teachers and staff questions.
As students passed through the hallways, many looked on in awe.
“I can’t believe this,” one student said. “This almost looks like a college campus.”
Some of the students stopped and sat at the chairs and tables placed next to the windows in the hallway that look out onto the school’s courtyard, which includes a grass area where students could eat lunch and hang out. While the courtyard is outside, it serves as the center point of the school’s campus.
Other key areas of campus include the cafeteria, theater, gym and media center, where families gathered toward the end of the self-guided tour to sit, meet with school leaders and share thoughts about the campus.
Many families were impressed with the media center, which featured a variety of types of seating and furniture meant to encourage collaboration among students.
Another popular gathering place was the gym where kids played basketball while parents spoke with coaches and learned more about what athletics at East Forsyth will look like going forward.
On top of student and staff leaders who answered student and parent questions, there were also signs placed around the school that provided information on East Forsyth’s different career pathways.
These include Architecture/Drafting and Design, A/V Technology and Film; Construction and Carpentry; Computer Science; Culinary Arts; Early Childhood Education; Engineering and Technology, Entrepreneurship; Interiors, Fashion and Textiles; Marketing and Management; Programming; and Teaching as a Profession.
As families explored, many said they couldn’t wait to get the school year started and attend campus full time.
“I thought I was excited before,” parent Cindy Fuller said. “But I’m more than excited for my daughter to come here now. This is awesome.”
Going forward, Cheney is excited to welcome the classes of 2023, 2024 and 2025 to East Forsyth High School and work with the community’s other schools — Chestatee Elementary, Chattahoochee Elementary and Little Mill Middle — to continue building a better East Forsyth.
“This work will always be connected and rooted to our values and commitment to connect, elaborate and care for all,” Cheney said.