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Board of Education members discuss Staley status, FEMA funding

Cara Dolan Berry
Posted 11/3/21

Board of Education members received an update on the status of Staley Elementary School, which has been shuttered since mid-August flooding forced the district to send its students elsewhere for the …

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Board of Education members discuss Staley status, FEMA funding

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Board of Education members received an update on the status of Staley Elementary School, which has been shuttered since mid-August flooding forced the district to send its students elsewhere for the current school year.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) “will only restore the building up to “pre-disaster state,” which would not replace the building,” Rome Superintendent Peter C. Blake told board members at their meeting on Thursday, Oct. 28. The building, Blake said, will remain empty pending determination of whether the building and grounds can be fully functional and the amount of disaster funding that can be accessed.

The funding, Blake said, will just repair damage and won’t fund potential efforts to reduce the risk of future flooding at the 620 E. Bloomfield St. building which was built on a flood plain with parts of the structure just yards from the Mohawk River banks.

“We are still going through the submissions process to get access to the funding,” said Blake. “How much they are going to fund is to be determined.”

Blake said it was unrealistic to hope to have reliable information on the status of Staley in time for a Capital Project vote in March. He was not even optimistic about May.

“So we will do a two-vote system this year; a vote in March for things not involving Staley – such as RFA roof work and general work at elementary schools,” said Blake, “and then a subsequent vote in December will address the ultimate outcome of the Staley situation.”

Blake noted that pushing back any decisions regarding the state of Staley gives the redistricting consultants time to complete their work and the district architects to complete detailed proposals regarding Staley options.

“Any chance they (FEMA) would see this building is on a flood plain, it’s old etc.,” queried Board Vice President Tanya Davis. “Is that a decision that could be made for Staley?”

Blake reiterated that would be a State Department of Education determination.

Blake said it was possible that FEMA will determine that the district is entitled to $5 million – the cost of restoring Staley to its condition prior to the recent flood damage. He confirmed that any FEMA money granted in connection with Staley does not need to be spent on the Staley Building. It can be earmarked for any facility that will be housing Staley’s students. That could include renovating other district property or new construction.

Blake does not anticipate – despite that Staley presented with remarkable challenges prior to the flooding – that FEMA will come back to say, “We’re going to build you a whole new school.’

“And we don’t want to have to tax the community or our resources to make that happen,” said Blake.

Redistricting

Blake also updated the board on the district’s redistricting efforts and clarified that New York State got rid of the process of state-wide mandatory review of public school district building condition every five years, moving instead to a “staggered” model. Each district must now report on building condition every five years, but different districts now have different time-frames. Rome’s next building condition survey is now scheduled for 2023.

“The problem is that the last official building condition survey done for Rome was in 2015,” said Blake.

He confirmed that district architects, LaBella Associates, is working on that, but that they have information ready now for internal purposes.

“It is not so much just the size of district, but where the people live, as well,” said Paul Hagerty, chair of the board’s Facilities Committee.

Hagerty noted that the district does not yet have the data regarding the distribution of the city’s population of school-age children and their families, but hoped they would soon.

He also requested an update on how and to where Staley students and staff were redistributed among the district’s different school buildings and that has “worked out.”

“That would be an interesting facilities presentation,” said Hagerty, who added there is “more to come.”

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