The Rome school district’s proposed capital project for Rome Free Academy athletic facilities and a potential new Staley Elementary School drew concerns from a resident who spoke to the Board of Education.
In his comments at the board meeting Thursday night, Dan LeFever of River Road questioned proposals to either build a new Staley at the former Turin Street site of RFA or replace it by reopening and expanding the former Clough Elementary School.
In addition, he expressed opposition to building a new stadium at RFA’s Griffiss park location to replace RFA Stadium on Turin Street.
School district officials are hoping to schedule a public bonding referendum vote by December to seek district voters’ approval of the capital project. Project plans are pending before the state Education Department. No cost estimates have been announced yet.
LeFever told the board he is “a little bit ambivalent” about putting a new Staley building at RFA’s former Turin Street location.
He said “every year...something comes up” involving capital projects, noting the district “just got done” with a major Strough Middle School renovation plus various other projects in recent years such as at Joy Elementary School. He added he is concerned about impacts for taxpayers, although he recognizes that state financial aid is available; such aid typically covers large proportions of costs.
As for the district’s possible alternative involving reopening and expanding the former Clough building to replace Staley, LeFever wondered “would the building...be big enough.”
District Superintendent Peter C. Blake replied Staley has 632 students at its 620 E. Bloomfield St. site. The district would not construct an additional wing at the Clough site without accommodating all students as needed, he commented. The proposal involving Clough is a “cheaper option” for the district’s plans, he observed.
Addressing proposed new athletic facilities at RFA’s Griffiss park site, LeFever said that when the school was built there and opened 17 years ago “I said ‘wait a minute’” about keeping RFA Stadium at Turin Street. He questioned what the district was thinking at the time.
LeFever said it recently was explained to him that some funding had been put into RFA Stadium and its field around that period, but that the stadium now is “getting bad” in its condition. But he is against putting a new stadium at RFA’s Griffiss park location, and said the district should instead invest in the current stadium and field.
“Think of the tradition...behind it....Think of the graduations, think of high school football,” LeFever said of RFA Stadium. He does not want to take “all that tradition down....” However, Blake said last month state officials have indicated that repairs to the current RFA Stadium would not be eligible for state financial aid and would need to be fully funded by the community; RFA Stadium is not part of a regular school site.
Other than Blake’s elaboration on potential reopening and expansion of the Clough building, LeFever’s comments drew no further response from the board or district administration.
The district does not want to renovate Staley’s aging current site due to issues including moisture-related concerns with air quality and ventilation. At RFA at Griffiss park, the proposed new stadium would be part of an overall new athletic complex plus there would be some repairs to the school.