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Rome schools hope to expand career, technical programs; looking at ELOST project ideas

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Rome City Schools

While the new Main Elementary School would be a major project for Rome City Schools, the system has several other additions and expansions they would like to make.

One such addition would be a new building at Rome High. The new building would house a field house, practice space for the school’s ROTC program and classroom space for career pathways.

“One pathway we would like to add would be a culinary arts program,” explained Lou Byars, superintendent. “We’ve seen this work well at other similar systems, such as Calhoun City. The students are taught not only how to prepare meals, but how to plan events and run them. They are taught the business side, as well.”

The school system already has plans to expand their medical- and health-related occupations offerings, he said.

They also hope to add programs such as welding and robotics and engineering.

The addition of this building would free up much needed space in the high school, Byars said.

“By moving the pathways we currently have out to this building, it would allow for more space inside the high school,” he said, “which we need, because we are growing every year.”

The additional building at the high school is being plan­ned for an area near the tennis courts at the school and would be part of an education local option sales tax proposal that the system is planning for the ballot in November.

Along with the RHS building, system officials have another, bigger project planned in a new Main Elementary School, built to resemble the system’s latest large ELOST project, Anna K. Davie Elementary School.

In February, Byars held a meeting with Main and North Heights parents and staff to discuss a proposed part of Rome City Schools’ five-year plan. Plans are to combine the two elementary schools and build a new Main Elementary academic building on the current site.

Students would be taught at North Heights for the two years it would take to build the school.

After the build is complete, the students would move into the new Main Elementary and the system would begin refurbishing North Heights into a sixth-grade academy, which would house all of the system’s sixth-graders in one school and be a STEM-focused school, with labs and classrooms geared to hands-on learning.

“This was not a cost-generated idea, this idea of combining was more about space,” Byars explained. “We look at several schools in our system, such as West Central and Elm Street and West End. They need more room. If we were able to take sixth grade out of each school and move it to the academy, this would clear up room at every school.”

Another consideration was the fact that the current Main is split into several parts that students have to travel. The upper elementary grades are housed on the hill above the school and the cafeteria and gymnasium are separate as well.

“The students have to travel between five different buildings sometimes,” Byars said. “This is a security issue, as well as the concerns of bad weather.”

While state money could be used to refurbish and remodel North Heights, the system would count on ELOST funds to move the Main project along quickly.

“We will still do the Main project, because it needs to be done, even if the ELOST doesn’t pass,” Byars said. “However it would take longer. With ELOST funding the Main building could be done in two years and then we could start on North Heights right away. Without the ELOST funding we’d have to wait longer on the sixth-grade academy.”