The main concern expressed at a Rome City Schools ELOST meeting Thursday night was the issue of proposing the creation of a college and career academy at Rome High School rather than combining with the academy the Floyd County school system already has.
Rome City would like to use collections from an extension of the education local option sales tax — ELOST 4 expires in spring 2019 and a vote on ELOST 5 is expected to be on the November ballot — to build a facility that would house classrooms for career pathways on the high school’s practice football field. The facility would also act as a field house for athletics, provide a space for the ROTC program and open up as a meeting place for faculty.
But during the public comment portion of the meeting, some asked why the school system couldn’t just join the Floyd College and Career Academy, prompting Superintendent Lou Byars to say he doesn’t see an advantage in doing so.
Rick Stevenson told Byars he couldn’t see how to get voters to vote “yes” on the ELOST without the business community endorsing the establishment of an additional CCA.
Ken Wright, director of business and industry services at the Rome Floyd Chamber, commented on the challenges for businesses in setting up work experiences for students in two different systems. He also spoke to the potential difficulties of finding specialty instructors — robotics programs for example — and providing equipment for both CCAs.
Byars said transportation poses an obstacle to a joint CCA, as some of the 18 buses in Rome City’s fleet are in need of replacement — also a proposed option of what to do with ELOST collections. And transporting kids to and from the FCCCA would cut down on instruction time, he said, while requiring the school system to pay more into making additional city buses available.
Another reason is space, Byars explained, and what would need to be done at the FCCCA, which has close to 900 students, to make room for Rome students. He said Rome High already has enough students to fill their programs, which fit about 80-100 each.
Ultimately, the new building would help alleviate the space constraints that come with a growing student population, which is expected to reach 2,000 in two years, at Rome High, Byars said. It would also allow the school system to offer more career pathways, expanding from the close to 17 they currently have, he added.
Other potential projects under a new ELOST include consolidating Main and North Heights elementary schools and building a new Main Elementary on its current site — Main students would go to North Heights during the construction period. Also, the process of turning North Heights into a STEAM-oriented academy for all of Rome City’s sixth-graders would begin once the new Main Elementary is built.
Additional projects discussed Thursday included installing all elementary school gyms with air conditioning, putting cameras in all schools, and updating and replacing Chromebooks.