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Posted: 04/02/14

Closure or repairs in the works for aging RMS

Talks of closure halt re-districting plans

by CHRIS GRAY
Observer Staff Writer
      Improving the learning environment at Romeo Community Schools could come down to fixing or closing Romeo Middle School (RMS).
       The Board of Education began talks on March 24 of seeking a multi-million dollar bond to renovate its facilities, but is also considering shutting down RMS and moving students elsewhere.
       In light of a possible closure, the board voted 7-0 to retract re-districting efforts that would balance student levels between RMS and Powell Middle School (PMS).
       During discussions on repairing the district's aging facilities, the board mulled over the costs associated with fixing RMS. Don Gratton, maintenance supervisor, said it would cost about $14-15 million just to bring the building up to today's standards.
       "We need to start seriously considering putting some money into the building," he said.
       In lieu of repairs, administrators suggested converting the Croswell Center into a grade 6 building and PMS into a grade 7-8 school. RMS would then close, saving around $500,000 a year.
       "We think we could fit all the kids into Powell," said Superintendent Nancy Campbell. "It's just the Band-Aid approach."
       If RMS closed, the district would have to consider expanding PMS to make room for students, and child care services held at Croswell would need to be moved to other buildings.
       Conversely, board members discussed a $70 million bond that would repair issues at RMS, renovate PMS into the new high school and create new fields. The 27-year bond would go before voters in 2015 or 2016 and be 2.5 to 2.8 mills.
       Board President Ed Sosnoski said it would be worthwhile to determine if the community was in favor of fixing the current facilities or building out new ones.
       Vice-president Chris Giancarli suggested presenting options to residents in a survey to determine what they would like to see happen. He said the options could be a $20 million, a $70 million or a $120 million bond, with each increase providing more renovations and repairs.
       "I really believe you've got to show the community something about what it's going to look and feel like for each option," he said.
       Executive Director of Business Services David Massoglia said the board should keep in mind that building PMS into a high school would take about three years when factoring in putting the bond before voters, meaning RMS would still need to be used during that time.
       "You might have to do an interim solution of closing it and still go for a new high school bond," he said.
       Massoglia said demolishing RMS would cost about $1 million.
       Jason Couch, Romeo High School instructor and football coach, told the board he would love a new athletic field, but could support a bond for a new field and facility.
       "I walk into my classroom and it's the same carpet that I walked onto 21 years ago when I was a student," he said. "It's not going to be long before a lot of fixes are going to be needed at Romeo High School."
      
Retracted re-districting

       Aside from structural issues, RMS suffers from a lower student count than PMS, that resulted in the board approving a re-districting plan in 2013. The plan would have moved 100 students over a three-year period by having students living north of 29 Mile Road and west of Campground Road attend RMS.
       Families with children that would have to attend both middle schools could opt to have both of their students go to RMS. Parents protested the re-districting at the board's March 17 meeting, as 16 families would have had students at both middle schools at the same time.
       Campbell said it didn't make sense to upset residents with the re-districting if there was a plan to close RMS. Trustee Sara Murray agreed.
       "We'll table the whole balancing of the middle schools because of all the discussion that is taking place with what could possibly happen with RMS," Murray said.
       The board will look at re-districting again in the 2014-15 year.


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