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UPDATE: Elementary school capital project vote delayed

Mike Jaquays
Staff writer
Posted 2/14/23

The Rome City School District Board of Education has postponed a planned referendum vote on a major capital project that would add a new elementary school building.

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UPDATE: Elementary school capital project vote delayed

ROME — The Rome City School District Board of Education has postponed the planned referendum vote on a major capital project that would add a new elementary school building.
Superintendent Peter Blake reported at the board's regular meeting Monday that the district has still not received a final accounting of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds they will receive in response to the flooding at Staley Elementary School in August 2021. That school was closed and its students were were repositioned to other elementary schools within the district.
After C&S Companies Project Manager Nathan Van Wie gave his own report Monday updating the board and their audience on ongoing work. Van Wie said the uncertainty in FEMA funding led to his tabling the continuation of plans to build a new elementary school at the district's stadium complex until the issues with FEMA can be resolved.
The capital project proposal was originally expected to be revealed by the board's March 6 meeting with the referendum then to go before the district voters in May. But since part of the expense of that new building will be paid for with those FEMA funds, Blake explained the district is unable to present accurate tax impact information for residents at this time.
He added that any dealing with FEMA will be a gamble until they know for sure the funding that the district will receive.
Board member Dr. Karen Fontana asked if there might be a ballpark time when it could be expected. There is no concrete date set for its return to the board's agenda at this time, although Blake said the next best time to propose it to the voters would be this December.
Fellow board member Kelly Carinci asked what the district's contingency plans are moving forward so they don't get to the new school year in September with the same overcrowding situation they have now.
"I know I don't want to be sitting here in September facing the same thing," she said. "How are we being proactive? I want us to come together and to have a solution."
Unfortunately, Blake said, there is no "magic solution" that will ease the problem right now. The possibility of rearranging the districts of the elementary schools would not end up helping the way people want, he said. Short of identifying some new infrastructure within the district there is no easy solution, Blake explained.
Board member Cassie Knutti asked about a proposal to expand in Dart Circle but Blake said there were technological issues found there. The proposal of adding trailers for classes also didn't pose much immediate relief once the trailers' expense, their setup and the time delay in getting them installed were all factored in.
Board President Joseph Mellace stressed that the board is all concerned with the overcrowding and said he hopes they can push to present the referendum to the voters "as soon as possible."
"I don't want anyone feeling we are sitting here doing nothing," Mellace said.
Van Wie recommended the board plan ahead for the future.
"I encourage you to step back and look at a long-range facilities plan once you get out of this immediate crisis," he told the members.
The next meeting of the Board of Education will be at 6 p.m. Monday, March 6, at the district offices, 409 Bell Road.


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