Voters OK $21.6M plan for Rome schools

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ROME — A total of 828 Romans cast ballots on Tuesday with a majority of 62% approving the referendum seeking approval of a $21,608,018 capital project.
 
The funding is earmarked to perform repairs and upgrades to all of the Rome City School District’s school buildings and facilities.
 
Voters casting ballots at the Westernville polling place were the only cohort where a slim majority (15-14) voted to reject the project.
 
“The voter turnout was amazing,” declared Superintendent of Peter C. Blake, “and I appreciate everyone who took the time to participate in the vote regardless of how they voted. It is a sign of how much our community cares about their schools.”
 
“It’s nice to see the community support something that will ultimately provide a benefit to our students and community and help keep Rome facilities in a condition that shows that we value them,” said Blake.
 
“Having up-to-date facilities is a factor for families when it comes to deciding where to live and this project will allow us to ensure that we are keeping an eye on the quality of our facilities,” he added.
 
The district has reported the estimated impact on the district’s tax levy to be zero, with 98% of the project funded by the state and the balance of $3,410,000 being withdrawn from the district’s capital reserve fund, which was approved by Rome City School District voters on Dec. 18, 2019.
 
The monies will fund upgrades and repairs at all six of the district’s current elementary school buildings (no work will be performed at the Staley Elementary School building, which has been closed due to flooding in August 2021), Strough Middle School and Rome Free Academy.
 
“We are looking forward to enhancing security at all of our elementary schools, as well as providing much needed athletic fields at the high school,” said President, John Nash on behalf of Rome’s Board of Education. “All of our students and athletes will benefit and the community will be proud when the project is completed.”
 
“Thank you Rome district voters,” Nash added.
 
The repairs range from general maintenance and mechanical, to plumbing system repairs and upgrades.
 
All six elementary school buildings will be scheduled for “main office and vestibule reconstruction to establish a safe and secure entry vestibule,” according to the district’s capital plan proposal.
 
Strough Middle School is targeted for repairs and upgrades to stairwells and new fire alarm system will be installed at RFA.
 
Repair budgets at the six elementary schools range from $89,148 at John Joy to $1,045,296 at Bellamy, the only elementary school earmarked for more than $1 million in renovations.
 
The work at Strough Middle School falls within a budget of $327,564.
 
The vast majority of the over $21 million project — $17,179,625 — is earmarked for RFA and, other than the new fire alarm system and general maintenance, the repairs and upgrades will be to the athletic facilities at RFA and RFA Stadium.
 
The RFA campus on Dart Circle will see the installation of an artificial turf baseball/softball field complex and the resurfacing and reconstruction of the tennis courts, while “continued general maintenance items at Stadium Support,” according to the newly approved proposal.
 
Here is a breakdown of the $21.6 million plan, broken down by school:
 
-Rome Free Academy, 95 Dart Circle — $17,179,625
 
Work to include: New artificial turf multi-purpose baseball/softball field complex; tennis court resurfacing and reconstruction; interior fire alarm system replacement; continued general maintenance items; continued general maintenance items at stadium support complex.
 
-Lyndon H. Strough Middle School, 801 Laurel St. — $327,564
 
Work to include: Mechanical and plumbing system replacements/upgrades; stairwell improvements.
 
-All elementary schools — $4,100,829 (combined)
 
Work to include: Main office and vestibule reconstruction to establish a safe and secure entry vestibule; continued general maintenance items.
 
Estimated cost per elementary school:
 
-Jerry C. Clough School (District offices, district pre-K program), 409 Bell Road: $285,600;
 
-Francis Bellamy Elementary School, 7118 Brennon Ave.: $1,045,296;
 
-Louis V. Denti Elementary School, 1001 Ruby St.: $356,592;
 
-Gansevoort Elementary School, 758 W. Liberty St.: $990,624;
 
-John E. Joy Elementary School, 8194 Bielby Road: $89,148;
 
-Ridge Mills Elementary School, 7841 Ridge Mills Road: $949,627;
 
-Stokes Elementary School, 9095 Turin Road: $383,942.
 
The Rome City School District Board of Education passed a resolution recommending the over $21 million capital project at their regular meeting on Jan. 27, with the lone dissent being Board Clerk Dr. Karen Fontana. Fontana read a statement reflecting her reasons for opposing the resolution, which included her objection to drawing down from the reserve fund for a project that primarily funded upgrades to athletic facilities at a time when the district is wrestling with the unexpected and likely permanent loss of one of its elementary school buildings and the overall challenge of redistricting its schools to address overcrowded classrooms and inequity in the distribution of resources across its elementary school communities.
 
Work on the design phase of the project and submission to the New York State Education Department would begin in the coming weeks. Following approval from the State Education Department, the district would seek bids on the project and then award contracts for the construction of the various portions of the project. Construction is planned to begin in the spring of 2024 with completion targeted for the fall of 2026.

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