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South Rome Early Learning Center students sing a song in their classroom inside Anna K. Davie Elementary Thursday, March 1, 2018. (Spencer Lahr / RN-T.com)

The Rome Board of Education will pick up its discussion on possibly providing funding for the South Rome Early Learning Center, along with potentially taking action on an HVAC project at elementary schools gym and purchasing buses during tonight’s meeting.

The meeting will be held in the Rome Middle School cafeteria at 5:45 p.m. Caucus will be in the front office conference room at the school at 1000 Veterans Memorial Highway, starting at 4 p.m. The school is the feature of the Focus on Student Achievement portion of the meeting.

The financial situation of the South Rome Early Learning Center — a program for 3-year-olds which is housed at Anna K. Davie Elementary — was brought before board members during a called meeting two weeks ago. Charles Looney, executive director of the South Rome Redevelopment Corp., said at that time anticipated funds could keep the center in operation for around a month.

Rome City Schools Superintendent Lou Byars has met with representatives of the SRRC and Berry College — the partners in running the center — to discuss possible solutions, after board members had requested more time to weigh the decision of providing funds from the system. Byars would not say Monday what other options are on the table.

During the meeting Feb. 27, Byars proposed the system pay out $45,000 to pay per classroom for the remainder of the school year. He also proposed providing $75,000 per classroom for the same purpose next school year. There are two classrooms. The system currently only makes in-kind contributions, such as providing classrooms and meals for kids, while the SRCC focuses on funding and Berry College handles day-to-day operations.

Also, Byars will recommend a contractor or contractors to handle HVAC installation at each of the elementary school gyms. The six schools were split into two groups for bidding purposes, but one company could bid on both.

The project will be funded through education local option sales tax funds. The goal is to have the project finished before next school year begins.

The board will also review quotes on purchasing new buses — to be bought through ELOST 4 funds. The system mainly uses city transit buses, but the system has its own fleet for field trips and transporting special-education students. Byars said some of the buses in the aging fleet are at or older than 20 years old.

Byars said the system “rarely, if ever” receives state funding for transportation expenses, due to its arrangement with city transit and the state not fully funding its transportation formula.

“The state’s funding formula called for sending $320 million to districts in 2017, but instead the legislature approved just $130 million,” according the Georgia Budget & Policy Institute.

This is why the system has to use ELOST funds, or its operating budget, for bus purchases, Byars said.