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Oversight causes price increase for Loudoun Ballet school use

Loudoun Ballet dancers practice for this year’s “The Nutracker.” Times-Mirror/Anna Harris
Loudoun Ballet, a cultural arts nonprofit, is paying more than $14,000 more to rent space from Loudoun County Public Schools for its annual performance of “The Nutcracker” compared to years past, which appears to be caused by an oversight on both Parks, Recreation and Community Services as well as the schools themselves.

In Loudoun, a lack of venues for cultural arts and entertainment like Loudoun Ballet and Loudoun Symphony have had the two entities scrambling for space.

The mission became more difficult with the higher bill from the schools the ballet company saw this year, a jump from roughly $3,500 to $18,000, according to the company.

Neither Loudoun County Public Schools nor Parks and Recreation has changed their policies regarding nonprofits use of public and school space in the county, nor did Loudoun Ballet’s status change, according to both the schools and Parks and Rec.

“All groups who are not an official Loudoun County Public Schools organization, nor school-sponsored program, and declared nonprofit in accordance with the IRS Code 501(c) pay space and applicable custodial fees for use of LCPS schools and facilities,” Wayde Byard, public information officer at Loudoun Schools, said in an email. “LCPS offers no discounted, nor pro bono, facility use rates to approved groups/organizations.”

This policy is the same. What did change was awareness.

Public school entities directly related to the schools get first pick when it comes to school space. That’s sporting events, band, theatre or any other school-related group.

Parks and Recreation get second priority. Other groups looking to use school space don’t have to get approval from Parks and Rec, but they do contact the department to make sure they’re not using the space.

Parks and Rec do get a billing break when it comes to school space use, and groups that partner with or are sponsored by the department can get a break too if they have a Memorandum of Understanding with Parks and Recreation.

For years, Loudoun Ballet was assumed to be on one such Memorandum of Understanding, giving them that benefit of cheaper space.

Parks and Recreation went through a normal tightening procedure, looking through documents and reorganizing the thousands of requests that come in for the memorandums. In that cleanup, the department realized Loudoun Ballet did not have nor ever had a Memorandum of Understanding with Parks and Rec, according to Steve Torpy, director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services.

“I don’t think it was an oversight per-se,” he said. “I think it was an honest thing that was missed on both sides [the schools and Parks and Recreation] ... that was never brought up until recently when we were going back … It just so happens as we were doing it this came to light.”

He said Parks and Rec sat down with Loudoun Symphony and Loudoun Ballet and informed them of the fact so they could plan for the change in price.

“I can tell you with the volume of use that occurs not only with us but other community groups, it is a very good system,” Torpy said. “It is one of the reasons we talk all the time with the schools to make sure everything is good ... It became clear these guys should have been in a different status all along.”

Related coverage:

-Culture's cost: Loudoun arts seek venues


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