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BOE adopts $15.7 million local budget request
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FOREST CITY — The Rutherford County Board of Education adopted its local budget request, which will be submitted to the Rutherford County Commissioners.

According to Heidi Kearns, Rutherford County Schools (RCS) finance director, the school system is in good shape financially, enabling the local budget requests to be smaller than originally anticipated. The 2021-2022 local current expense appropriation request is for $15,724,201.

“This represents a 2% increase of the prior year appropriation,” Kearns told the school board Tuesday night. “This is an increase of $308,318, and is attributable to non-state funded salary and fringe benefit increases.”

The 2021-2022 total capital outlay appropriation request includes the proposed current year prioritized capital needs and annual technology requests, for a total of $6.3 million. Of this, $4.4 million is for capital needs, and $1.9 million is for technology.

Special funding allocated to schools systems in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, has allowed the RCS to make a much smaller local current expense increase request than in prior needs. Kearns pointed out that certain capital improvements will be possible with a portion of this funding as well, so the estimates for these projects also resulted in a smaller capital outlay funding request than would have been possible without the special funding.

Approximately 17% of the total RCS budget is the local current expense fund. Local school systems are funded through a combination of federal, state, and local government entities as well as other private grants.

RCS leaders are scheduled to meet with the county commissioners on Monday, April 19 at noon, to formally present the school system’s budget request.

Aaron Bradley introduces soon to be 4-month-old son Henson to the family’s herd of black angus beef cows on the family’s farm — Colfax Creek Farm in Bostic. The cows were quite smitten with Henson.


POPS reopens with May concert
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FOREST CITY — After more than a year of no concerts, no large gatherings, Forest City’s POPS (Pavilion on Park Square) is hosting “Country Music’s Breakout Stars” Parmalee and Dirty Grass Soul. The concert will be Friday, May 14 at 7 p.m. Tickets go on sale Friday.

POPS has been cleared to open with a reduced capacity, currently set at 1,250. Courtney Ashley, Forest City marketing and events coordinator, says everyone on the Forest City team is excited to welcome guests back to POPS.

“I’m beyond thrilled to bring Parmalee to Forest City,” said Ashley. “They are one of the most popular bands in country music right now, and with the combination of Dirty Grass Soul, it is going to be an incredible show. We are excited to bring live music back this year, and we will be engaging in COVID-19 compliant protocols to ensure that we can get together, safely, and enjoy a great night of country music.”

The last time POPS hosted a concert at full capacity was in October 2019, when Sammy Kershaw performed.

“We had no concerts at all in 2020,” Ashley said. “We had a few smaller events like the pumpkin patch in the fall, and a few things like yoga. But we haven’t been able to have concerts.”

Ashley is hopeful that as the pandemic continues to wane, guidelines will continue to loosen, allowing more people to attend events.

“I am hopeful that maybe by mid-summer, we could be back in the full swing of things,” Ashley said.

VIP tickets will go on sale Friday at 12 p.m., and the general admission tickets will go on sale Friday, April 23 at 12 p.m. The public is asked to review the POPS Reopening Procedures at townofforestcity.com/pops-reopening-guidelines and purchase your tickets at exploreforest city.com.

2016 ACM “New Vocal Duo/Group of the Year” nominee Parmalee is one of country music’s most successful acts. The platinum-selling band is one of only four groups since 2001 to earn three consecutive top 10 singles from a debut country album. Parmalee has supported Brad Paisley and Jake Owen on national tours and accrued over 427 Pandora streams, 253 million on-demand streams and over 58 million YouTube views.

Dirty Grass Soul hails from the foothills of Cleveland County, and has been entertaining audiences across the Carolinas and beyond since the band formed in 2011. Dirty Grass Soul’s music has been described as somewhere between country, bluegrass and Southern rock & roll reminiscent of acts like The Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band.

No outside food and beverages are allowed inside POPS, but there will be food trucks from local vendors and a concession stand featuring pizza, nachos, popcorn, candy, soda, beer and wine.

Ashley expects a good turnout for the event.

“These groups put on a good show,” she added. “I believe people are eager to get out and do things. People are excited to do that.”

RCS prepares for summer school
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FOREST CITY — The leadership of the Rutherford County Schools began planning for a robust summer school program several months ago. Now that the state government approved legislation mandating the program, local leaders believe they will be ready.

The legislation requiring the summer program was first introduced in February, and signed by Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday (April 9).

Assistant Superintendent Renee Collins updated the Board of Education on the summer school plans, Tuesday night.

The on-campus summer school program will run from June 1 to July 13, Monday through Thursday. It will be open to any kindergarten through high school student who may be at risk of failure or not making sufficient progress. The summer program is not required, but parents of eligible students will be contacted by school officials, explaining this option.

“Parents will make the final decision as to whether their child attends summer school,” Collins said.

Kindergarten, first and second graders will receive instruction in reading and math. Third through eighth graders will receive instruction in reading, math, and science. Students will also receive physical activity each day, and will receive social and emotional supports. Breakfast and lunch will be served, and the bus service will operate.

The summer program, according to Collins, will allow students to catch up and be better prepared for the 2021-2022 school year and will allow high school students a chance to recover lost credits and stay on track for graduation in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Teachers and other school personnel will be hired as “temporary employees” on a contract basis for the summer school program.

The N.C. Department of Public Instruction is expected to provide additional operation guidance on summer school by the end of this week.

“We understand that the students are tired, and the teachers are tired,” Collins said.

She added that she is inspired by the teachers who are willing to work this summer, to create a meaningful learning experience.

Also at the school board meeting, Superintendent David Sutton gave an update on student participation, now that the face-to-face learning program (Plan A) is now open to all K-12 students.

“Most broadly, 75.7% of enrolled students now participate in our face-to-face learning program, while 24.3% continue to participate in our remote learning program, which is still required under current N.C Dept. of Health and Human Services guidelines,” Sutton said.

Participation rates vary among the schools. For the elementary students as a whole, 84.8% are in the face-to-face program, with 15.2% in the remote learning program. Harris Elementary has the highest face-to-face participation rate, at 94.6%, while Spindale has the lowest face-to-face participate rate, at 76.5%.

For the middle school students as a whole, 78.3% are in the face-to-face program, with 21.7% in the remote program.

Among the high school students, 59.8% are in the face-to-face program, while 40.2% remain in the remote learning program.

“We are excited to return from spring break and start the final grading period of the school year with renewed energy, and with the greatest level of student participation in face-to-face instruction we’ve achieved since March, 2020,” Sutton added.