The Rome City Schools Board of Education met for their first meeting of the summer Tuesday evening that focused on new programs and mental health counselors for the next school year.

Director of School Improvement Leslie Dixon presented to the board two new programs recommended by the system’s Health/Sex/Aids Advisory Committee. Dixon recommended adding “Tar Wars” into the current sixth grade curriculum which discusses the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping.

“Just because they don’t contain tar doesn’t mean they are OK to use,” she said. “We are behind the eight ball on this one.”

Vaping cartridges are being sold with fruity flavors and packaged to look like markers she said. It doesn’t take much to hide vaping and the system needs to train staff to be on the look out as well as teach kids the dangers of e-cigarettes, she continued.

She also recommended the SAFE — Safety Awareness for Everyone — sexual abuse prevention program for next school year which will be taught by Shannon Bond of the Sexual Assault Center. The program uses age appropriate language for elementary students who participate in the course.

“School staff are present during the demonstration,” Dixon said.

The board also approved of the purchase of 700 new Chromebooks for Rome High School after Matt Stover, director of technology and network services, presented the need for the new technology. The system had 1,993 Chromebook issues during the school year, he said. The Chromebook initiative started in 2015 and as the computers get older software updates are no longer offered. Older Chromebooks also have parts the system can no longer get their hands on.

“They paved the way for where we are now, but they are at the end of their life cycle,” he said.

As for what happens to the replaced Chromebooks, Stover said he isn’t sure what the best move is. He said recycling the computers would yield about $15-$20 a piece and because they have been personalized to say Rome City Schools he isn’t sure if they could resell them.

The cost for purchasing the 700 Chromebooks would run around $233,678, which will be paid for through 1-cent education local option sales tax which was designated for the Rome College and Career Academy as well as Chromebook upgrades.

The system also approved the hiring of seven mental health counselors for the system, awarding the contract for the hiring to Willowbrooke at Tanner out of Villa Rica. School social worker Kirsten Thornante said eight companies were considered but selected Willowbrooke at Tanner because the system felt like they offered services that would be available to most students.

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