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Schools have already started booking spots for the new Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center
Board of Education discusses governance goals, internet use policy
The Forsyth County Arts and Living Center construction as of July 24. - photo by Sabrina Kerns

The Forsyth County Board of Education discussed the district’s new Forsyth County Arts and Learning Center at its latest work session on Tuesday, Aug. 13, along with a possible change to the Acceptable Internet Use policy and upcoming governance goals. 

FoCAL Center 

Schools, community members and businesses in the county have the opportunity to go ahead and book future events and performances at the nearly completed FoCAL Center ahead of its opening in December. 

FoCAL Director Dawn Phipps presented her opening and business plans for the facility to the BOE at its work session on Tuesday after taking members on a tour of the building. 

Phipps reminded the board members that she has focused on four main goals for the FoCAL Center: she believes it should be a learning center for all Forsyth County Schools students and departments, a learning center for the community, a theater venue for artists and performers, and a rental facility. 

With that in mind, she spoke with each principal in the district to make sure that, first and foremost, the fine arts students in Forsyth County will have the opportunity to use the new facility when it opens. 

“But with as many schools as we have and departments and a very interested community that really wants to get in that facility, it’s really going to be super important that we’re flexible,” Phipps said. 

When speaking with principals, Phipps asked that each school designate one administrator to be the “booking agent,” serving as one point of contact between FoCAL and the school. 

After establishing those contacts, Phipps gave elementary and middle schools the first chance to book dates with center. She sent each one a survey asking for what dates they would like to book, which they were able to fill out anytime from Aug. 1-13. 

“What we’re looking at doing is because elementary and middle schools don’t have performing arts space, they are our first customers,” Phipps said. “And so we’re giving them the first opportunity to book at the FoCAL Center.” 

As the center will not be opening until the end of the first semester, the leadership team gave elementary and middle schools one date to book in the 2021-22 school year before opening it up to high schools, other FCS departments and the community.  

Going into the 2022-23 year, elementary and middle schools will have three dates to choose on the calendar before it opens to the community. 

Phipps clarified that the reserved dates do not mean elementary and middle schools can only book the center one day this year and three days next year. Once the calendar opens to the community, those schools can still book more events at the venue. 

Booking for community members, businesses, high schools and others will begin on Monday, Aug. 16.  

The FoCAL Center recently launched a new website where community members can find more information about renting the venue.  

Phipps explained that rental pricing will be different for FCS and non-FCS users. Pricing will also vary depending on the day and time the venue is booked. 

This is mainly due to the need for extra contracted workers to help run events outside of normal business hours. Those renting the venue can expect prices to be higher on the weekends and after 5 p.m. on weekdays. 

Outside of this pricing, Phipps said FoCAL’s budget will run just as any school in the county. 

Phipps and her team are, however, giving community members and businesses opportunities to donate money or sponsor either programming for the center or pieces of the actual facility, which is like other performing arts centers. 

She is currently looking at several different donation tiers with their own benefits to each, including tickets to events and promotion in different areas of the center. 

The top three tiers right now are:

  • Bravo: $5,000 donation and higher 
  • Standing Ovation: $10,000 and higher 
  • Crescendo Club: $25,000 and higher 

Not only would donors receive gifts from the center, but they would also have the opportunity to enter into a three-year agreement where they will be able to name a piece of the center. This could include the main theater, dressing rooms, the black box theater and more. 

“The idea is that, for their donation …. we would also put temporary plaques on the outside of those areas that say that they are a donor,” Phipps said. “And then after the three-year time period is over, then we could change out those [plaques] or if they wanted, they could continue to be a sponsor moving forward.” 

The money collected from sponsors and donations would be put back into the FoCAL Center, specifically for more programming options, scholarship opportunities for students and for workshops and classes. 

The FoCAL Center grand opening is planned for Dec. 3-4. The first day will be a ticketed event with food, entertainment and tours of the new building. The second day will be an open house where anyone in the community can come out and see the center. Students will perform the second day in each of the spaces throughout the center. 

Internet Acceptable Use policy 

Network Operations Coordinator Curt Godwin also presented to the board Tuesday, recommending a change to the district’s Internet Acceptable Use policy. 

The proposed changes are mainly meant to modernize the wording in the policy and include that staff members must also follow the policy. 

A proposed addition at the end of the policy states that the BOE will adopt a procedural manual that outlines and mandates “the operation of a reliable, safe and secure network for all students, teachers and staff.” 

The district has already started work on this manual, and as they finish a security review with all district departments, they will release it for public review. 

The proposed policy change will remain on the FCS website for 30 days to give community members the chance to share their feedback before the board votes on it next month. 

Governance goals 

Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the board discussed its governance goals moving into the new year. 

BOE Chairwoman Kristin Morrissey said they each decided to continue with last year’s goals. These were changed a few years ago to align more with Superintendent Dr. Jeff Bearden’s goals and the district’s strategic plan. 

The board members feel these goals still align well with the district’s vision moving forward. 

These goals include: 

  • Safety students and staff;
  • Alignment of strategies, initiatives and resources to the FCS learner profile;
  •  Effective and efficient financial planning; 
  • Making our large schools feel small.

This year, the leadership team also made sure to include action steps to help them reach overall goals. 

Bearden explained that the district is also working on a draft of a new learner profile, and he plans to work with a committee on a teacher profile and, later, a new superintendent profile that will reflect the learner profile. 

“It just makes sense to me that all those things align with the learner profile, and there is a lot of excitement around that work,” Bearden said. 

They plan to have those new profiles completed by the end of the current school year. 

The board will vote on these final governance goals at its next meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 17.