From the consolidation of several elementary schools in the early 1970s to the sale and demolition of the East and West Rome high schools in the early 1990s — the school system continues to evolve.
North Heights Elementary was established in 1971 when the system closed North Rome and Northside Elementary. The school was placed on Atteiram Drive where the building still sits.
When the new Main Elementary School opens in August it will hold students from North Heights, leaving the building empty for the first time since the ’70s. The current board of education has discussed converting the building to a sixth grade academy using education local option sales tax dollars.
The Eighth Ward School was torn down and rebuilt on its original site on Crane Street in 1971. When it reopened it took the name Southeast Elementary School. The building is now occupied and being renovated by Restoration Rome, which took it over in 2016.
A third school broke ground in 1971, this one on 20 acres of land donated by General Electric. The new school was West Central Elementary School, and its original purpose was to replace Elm Street and the Fourth Ward Elementary School. When the school opened in 1973, however, the system decided to keep Elm Street due to large elementary enrollment in the West Rome area.
In 1972 the board of education called for a $3.6 million bond referendum to build East Central Elementary and a West Rome Junior High. The then East Rome Junior High School, which now holds Georgia Highlands College nursing students, was also scheduled to be renovated if the vote passed.
The bond was approved and construction began on East Central Elementary School on Dean Avenue. The new school replaced East Rome Elementary and Central Primary.
The City Commission remodeled Central Primary to be used as the new central office for the city school system in 1977. It is still in use as the central office and holds administrative offices as well as the system’s boardroom.
Closing both East and West Rome
After over 30 years of separation East and West Rome high schools had their last graduating class in 1992. The city schools had nearly finished construction on the current Rome High School which would take in the city’s students the following fall.
The new Rome High School declared the Wolves as its mascot — dropping the West Rome Chieftains and East Rome Gladiators — and adopted a new color scheme of red and gold.
Several Rome News-Tribune articles document the thoughts of the class of 1992, including that of Chris Twyman, president of East Rome’s senior class and now attorney for the school system.
“It’s sad because we have no physical alma mater to come back to,” he said. “But whether we were the last class or not, this would be our last year. We’re happy to be the last class even though we’re sad to see it close.”
By that summer the City Commission had accepted offers on both East and West Rome high school properties. According to a Rome News-Tribune article on July 21, 1992, JDN Enterprises of Atlanta was poised to buy the West Rome school for $2.65 million — comparable to approximately $4.8 million now.
East Rome was sold to Westwood Gettysburg Investors LTD for $1.406 million — around $2.6 million now. According to the article, the profits from the schools went to paying off the brand new Rome High and Middle schools. East Rome Junior High was sold to Walter J. Adams for $400,000 — about $729,000 now — and that also went to pay for the new schools.
Both were marked for commercial use and West Rome High became Walmart and Sam’s Club with East Rome High becoming Kmart. The former site of East Rome is currently under demolition for new commercial development.
There is a marker at the very edge of the Walmart parking lot on Redmond Circle dedicated to West Rome High School.