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Posted: 04/30/14

Above, a decision to close Romeo Middle School could occur by the end of the year as a cost-saving measure for the district. Administrators say it would cost up to $15 million to bring the building up to modern standards, but its closure brings up questions of where displaced staff and students would go.

(Observer photo by Chris Gray)

Closure of Romeo Middle
School up for debate

Observer Staff Writer
      The fate of whether Romeo Middle School (RMS) remains open will be decided by the end of the year.
       The Romeo Community Schools Board of Education asked administrators on April 21 to put together options on how to deal with the aging RMS facility and its student body if it closes.
       The topic will come back to the board by its June 16 meeting, with a workshop meeting to be scheduled later this year to hammer out solutions like a facilities bond.
       Board President Ed Sosnoski said he would like to see a decision made by December on what to do with RMS as the district continues to deal with a tight budget.
       "It's an elephant in the room that if we don't start cutting costs and saving some money, it's inevitable that RMS is going to need to be closed or there might need to be another school that needs to be closed," Sosnoski said.
       Don Gratton, maintenance supervisor, informed the board in previous meetings that bringing RMS up to code would cost $10 to $15 million. Closing the building would save about $500,000 a year, and demolishing the building would cost around $1 million.
       Sosnoski suggested the board's facilities subcommittee meet to discuss RMS while the curriculum subcommittee could hash out where RMS' students would go should it close.
       "We've purposely not done anything with RMS on the sinking fund because we're basically putting a Band-Aid on a wide-open wound," Sosnoski said.
       Secretary Joe Fortuna said administration put together different options for the board to consider, such as how much money would be required to fix RMS, a timeline for its closure and student population movements, or whether or not to level it.
       "Where are you going to move the kids when you are working on Powell       On top of the options, a list of questions put together by Vice-president Chris Giancarli would be answered, such as facilities and instructional learning changes.
       "Ultimately I want to make sure that the kids, when they go to wherever they land, get as good or better learning opportunities as they're getting right now," Giancarli said.
       Trustee Chris Young said one idea for closing RMS would be to change Romeo High School into a middle school and expand Powell Middle School or the Romeo Engineering and Technology Center to become the new high school.
       "My suggestion would be a bond to do something with a high school campus," he said. "My personal view is we have to place both the middle schools probably at the high school."
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said it would likely take two months to gather the requested data.
       Young said the district needs to be looked at as a whole in order to address all facilities in phases, as closing RMS would cause a "domino effect."
       "If we're going to close Romeo Middle, we have to look at all of our other resources and properties because we can't just allocate them to Powell," he said.
       The district has avoided using the district's sinking fund on RMS, which collects about $1.7 million a year for facility improvements with 1.25 mills. Giancarli said unless funding from the state changes, RMS' fate needs to be determined.
       "We are finally, financially, going to arrive at that point," he said.
       Outside of the meeting, Campbell said administrators have been tasked with finding answers to questions in several areas regarding the potential closure, such as curriculum, the operational side, technology and financial.
       "We need to determine the timelines," she said. "It's going to take us some time to get the answers."
       She said if RMS were taken offline, the district could consider moving sixth grade students into their own building, possibly in an academy setting. She said the Croswell Center can hold about 490 students.
       When asked if she believes the discussions will affect the atheltic bond the district is pursuing to renovate Barnabo Field, Campbell said the atheltic bond could be considered the first phase in much-needed repairs to facilities.
       "I think our community knows we need to update the facilities in general," she said.
       RMS administrators declined to comment on the matter.

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Retrieved 7/31/2015 at 11:30:33 PM.
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