The Barrow County Board of Education Tuesday agreed to collaborate with ArtsNow, a nonprofit focused on arts programs and education, to create a “Center for Innovation” at the former Russell Middle School building.

The board met briefly Tuesday in its regular session. It heard a report about the proposed center and discussed it at length last week in its work session.

The center will focus initially on the development of arts integration and STEAM curriculum.

It will start with middle school students.

The memorandum of understanding approved Tuesday projects a long-term partnership for the two organizations that could extend into summer school and after-school programming.

Board members mentioned last week the possibility of working with existing YMCA programs and expanding them to the school facility.

Supt. Chris McMichael told the board last week he does not expect the first year of operation to cost the school district much money. He explained the contribution of the school system is mostly the school building. He noted utility and security costs already exist for that building.

He said he expects the center to open this summer and to host summer workshops this year and classes in the next school year.

The MOU calls for to develop, pilot, and disseminate innovative educational content for (and with) Barrow County students.

It includes a provision for a satellite office in the school facility for ArtsNow and for an “executive director-level” person to work at the center and oversee curriculum development and teaching resources for the two entities.

The MOU is for a five-year period with an automatic renewal for another five years. Either side can withdraw from the agreement with six months notice.

At the work session, McMichael also said he hopes to have staff members from Savannah College of Art and Design work with the project.

The MOU does not include SCAD and it was not mentioned at Tuesday’s meeting.

In other business, the board:

• Approved spending $46,861 with PCM-G of Chantilly, Va., to upgrade its licensing for technology. The district has been upgrading on a server-by-server, license-by-license basis. The contract will provide new backups to the system and consolidating all backups under a single platform. The Virginia company was one of four bidders. The other prices ranged from $48,167l to $51,324.

• Re-elected Mark Still and Lynn Stevens as chairman and vice-chair of the board. Still was elected without opposition. Stevens was elected on a 5-3 vote over Garey Huff Sr.

• Heard a report that the district collected $9.7 million in ESPLOST sales tax money in 2016. That is an increase of 1.7 percent over 2015 revenue, 5.7 percent over 2014; and 12.7 percent over 2013.

• Heard a report that the district has reserve funds of $18.5 million and is under budget in spending for the current year.

• Received a report that the district has 231 more students as of Dec. 6 than it had Dec. 9, 2015. The school district has 13,631 students. The eight elementary schools have enrollments between 759 and 957; the four middle schools have between 698 and 833 students. Winder-Barrow High School has 1,955 students and Apalachee has 1,749.

• Recognized Michael Jones for producing three videos that received silver awards of merit in competition for the Georgia School Public Relations Association. The videos were about the district’s teacher-leader program and the teacher of the year, Tiara Mensigner and teachers at the Winder-Barrow High School talking about Barrow Bold, the district’s theme.

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