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Rome BOE approves contractor, bus purchases

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Rome City Schools

Rome City Schools is set to move forward with a $963,074 HVAC project for elementary school gyms after the board of education approved J&R Construction for the task.

Also, board members approved the purchase of three buses — two 48-passenger special-education buses, one 72-passenger field trip bus — for a total cost of $285,015 during its Tuesday night board meeting.

Carrollton-based J&R Construction had the lowest bids on the two packages — the six schools were split into two groups for bidding purposes, but one company could bid on both. The company has 60 days to complete to project. The project is being funded by the education local option sales tax.

With an aging fleet of 18 buses, which are used for field trips and transportation of special-education students, the system will transition in three new buses. ELOST 4 funds will pay for the buses, since the system receives little to no funding for transportation expenses due to its arrangement in mainly using city transit and the state not fully funding its own transportation formula, Superintendent Lou Byars said.

During board caucus, Byars disclosed the South Rome Early Learning Center for 3-year-olds will not need funding from the system to get through the rest of the year.  

Earlier this month the board had been requested to provide $90,000 for the rest of this school year to pay for two teachers and two assistant teachers. Additionally, it was proposed for the system to allocate $150,000 for all of next school year for the same purpose.

However, Byars said officials with the South Rome Redevelopment Corp., a partner with the system and Berry College, have indicated funding from the system is not needed to get to the end of the year. But a new memorandum of understanding and reworking of the partnership is still in the works, with the system possibly taking more control of the program.

Board Chairwoman Faith Collins said if the system assumes greater control, such as providing funding, then there cannot be a charge for parents.

“I have a problem with charging parents to come to a public school,” she said.

“We’re going to take a hard look,” at a number of lingering issues with the center’s current arrangement, so as not to be in the same situation next year, Byars said.

Some issues include tuition rates, a low level of students in the Anna K. Davie Elementary district — where the center is housed — and hours that don’t align with work schedules of parents.

“We realize there are some hindrances to South Rome families,” said Charles Looney, the executive director of the SRRC.

Byars said, in looking at next year, the system could use federal Title IV funding, specific for early intervention, for the center’s teachers. Also, the system would still go forward in transitioning the current teachers and assistant teachers to Rome City Schools employees.

Following talks on the SRELC, Mary Helen Heaner approached the board with a request for $35,000 annually to support the Rome Children’s Academy on East 14th Street. Heaner is on the board of directors for the academy, which had previously been a subsidiary of the Northwest Georgia Housing Authority and caters to low-income families. However, NWGHA Executive Director Sandra Hudson said the authority is no longer allowed to provide funding for the academy due to changes in federal regulations.

Of the 24 young children currently at the academy, which accepts kids ages from 6 weeks to 5 years, Heaner said 20 of them are in the Anna K. Davie district. 

In other items, the board gave its approval for West End Elementary to bring in honey bees to the school’s apiary, as part of its pollinators project. A review of safety guidelines has been completed.