ELOST extension to be decided Tuesday

November 5, 2017

The fate of a proposed extension of the 1-cent education local option sales tax to fund capital projects for both the Rome and Floyd County school systems will be decided Tuesday as voters head to the polls for Election Day.

All 25 precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Tuesday and voters will have to go to their assigned locations. To verify your precinct and registration status, check the Georgia My Voter website or call the county elections office at 706-291-5167.

The $80 million ELOST package contains projects for both school systems. The current education local option sales tax ends March 31, 2019, and, if passed by voters, the tax collections would start April 1, 2019 and run for five years, or until the revenue projection has been hit.

“I would like for the community to remember an investment in their children and their youth always pays great dividends,” said John Jackson, the superintendent for Floyd County Schools. “These projects are an investment in our future.”

Jackson said there is no way to quantify the impact new facilities have on student achievement, but he believes there is a correlation. It has an intangible effect on making students feel that they are cared for and valued, he added.

“We believe that the continuation of the (ELOST) is very important for the future of our system when it comes to capital projects,” said Lou Byars, the superintendent for Rome City Schools.

Byars said it’s very difficult to meet the space demands and needs of building without this tax. He pointed to the 40 percent of funding generated through the tax coming from those outside of Floyd County as a benefit.

The two major projects for Floyd County Schools that would receive ELOST funding are the modernization of Armuchee High and the construction of a new Pepperell Middle. For Rome City Schools ELOST funding would be put to use in constructing a new Main Elementary, restructuring North Heights Elementary into a sixth-grade academy, and building a new multipurpose facility at Rome High that would include athletic facilities and a college and career academy.

To supplement ELOST funds, the systems would take advantage of state capital outlay funding.

Major Floyd County Schools projects

Modernizing Armuchee High would lead to replacing all of the replaceable systems in the school, including bathrooms, the roof, HVAC equipment and wireless internet infrastructure, according to David Van Hook, the director of facilities for Floyd County Schools. The project’s cost would run the system about $25 million.

A major component of the modernization would be turning the courtyard at the front of the school into the new front office. The indent where the courtyard is would be filled in with an extension of the building. In addition to the roof being redone it would be raised and clerestory windows would be installed and would run from the front of the school to the back, providing natural lighting.

The current front office would be remodeled into a 21st-century media center. As part of a number of improvements to athletic facilities, a new 1,200-seat gym would be built where the tennis courts are, with the front entrance facing the main parking lot.

At a price of $20 million the Lindale community would get a new Pepperell Middle, which system officials have said is much needed. The current school has a litany of problems, including an inability of its electrical capacity to support a 21st-century school and the need for a new roof. Also, doors, windows and portions of the HVAC system need replacing, along with the walls needing to be re-waterproofed.

This would be the eighth new school the system has built using ELOST funds.

Major Rome City Schools projects

Building a new Main Elementary would cost Rome City Schools approximately $10 million to $11 million. The current Main Elementary is vacant as students are attending North Heights until construction is complete. Once a new Main is built, all of the students at North Heights would attend the new school. The system plans to go ahead with building the school even if the ELOST doesn’t pass this year.

System officials have cited safety and inconvenience as the two concerns with the current Main that would be corrected with a new school. There are five independent buildings and students had to move between at least four of them on any given day. The cafeteria, which had a new kitchen installed and was renovated under the current ELOST, and gym would be tied into the new school.

A new Main would also have a built-in space for the system’s servers, and putting an early learning center for 3 year olds inside is also something the system is looking at doing.

For approximately $8 million to $9 million North Heights would become a STEAM — science, technology, engineering, the arts and mathematics — academy for all of the system’s sixth-graders. This move has been touted as having an impact on all of the other elementary schools, as three to five classrooms at each of them would be freed up with the sixth-graders gone, alleviating some space constraints the system is currently attempting to respond to.

Work on North Heights wouldn’t begin until a new Main is finished. In addition to being STEAM focused, the academy would be integrated with orientation into career pathways, along with developing an environment for hands-on activities.

The multipurpose facility at Rome High would cost about $14 million to $16 million. The building would allow for the system to expand on the 15 career pathways it currently offers. Pathways expansions could delve into medical-related fields, such as physical therapy, as well as culinary arts, automotive repair, construction, government services and multimedia.

A practice pad for the JROTC program and an indoor practice facility, which would be used by several sports teams, and locker rooms for the football team would be included in the building. A school-based health clinic and a student store are also planned for the building.

Other projects

Other items both systems would use ELOST funds for include technology improvements and bus replacements. Rome City Schools would also look to further add space at elementary schools and put air conditioners in elementary gyms. A new roof at Model Elementary, a data center for central servers and an additional access road to its CCA are other projects for Floyd County Schools.