BEDFORD — Members of the Bedford County School Board on Thursday voiced concerns about recommendations concerning the future of the division’s elementary schools.

The Bedford County School Board on Thursday discussed the findings of a facility condition assessment of all 13 elementary schools in Bedford County — which was presented by Warrenton-based Downey & Scott LLC in June — to assess the condition of elementary schools in the county.

Mac Duis, the division’s chief operations officer, said the division approved a $34,000 contract with Downey & Scott in November 2018 to assess the condition of elementary schools in the county.

“We have had some successful middle school projects the last few years,” Duis said. “Now it is time to turn our attention to the elementary schools.”

According to the assessment, only six of the 13 elementary schools in Bedford County — Bedford, Big Island, Forest, Goodview, Montvale and Thomas Jefferson — partially or fully comply with current building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The remaining seven schools — Bedford Primary School, New London Academy and Boonsboro, Huddleston, Moneta, Otter River and Stewartsville elementary schools — do not comply with current building codes and the ADA.

Mark Blankenship — the division’s supervisor of assessment and planning — said the most common problems found with the assessment were lack of compliance with the ADA, problems with HVAC systems and moisture entering the buildings through roof leaks or condensation. Blankenship presented several options the division could follow to address the issues.

Some of the options discussed Thursday included:

» Re-purposing Bedford Primary for adaptive reuse and building a 24,000-square-foot addition onto Bedford Elementary with room for additional student capacity. Estimated costs would be $8.4 million; or renovating Bedford Primary School. Estimated costs would be $10.8 million;

» Consolidate Moneta and Huddleston elementary schools and construct a new 100,000-square-foot, 650-seat capacity school. Estimated costs would be $39.1 million; renovate Moneta Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $8 million; or renovate Huddleston Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $8.6 million; and

» Re-purposing the Stewartsville Elementary building and constructing a large classroom addition onto Goodview Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $16 million; or renovating Stewartsville Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $14.7 million.

“These options are just some alternatives,” Blankenship said. “The school board can make the decisions based on this.”

Blankenship said the recommendations were based on projected growth in Bedford County during in past five years and the capacities of the schools in the Forest, Liberty and Staunton River zones.

“The numbers show a different growth in the next five years,” he said. “These recommendations are based on these numbers and how the division wants to accommodate this projected growth.”

Blankenship said the number of elementary school students is expected to increase in the Forest zone by 184 students in the next five years; increase by 171 students in the Liberty zone; and decrease by 243 students in the Staunton River zone.

Duis said the division issued surveys to parents and faculty members of the three zones to collect input on their preferences presented in the study.

“We wanted to get some data from focus groups,” Duis said. “We wanted that input before we asked you to make any decisions.”

Duis said 437 stakeholders responded in the Forest zone; 192 responses were submitted from the Liberty zone; and 203 responses came from the Staunton River zone.

“These were given to staff and parents in each zone,” Duis said. “We wanted to give each zone a chance to respond. The board can use this input in its decision.”

Several school board members questioned the surveys sent out and the presentation of the results to the school board and asked for more time before making a recommendation for future CIP funding for elementary schools.

“These surveys were designed to get a predetermined result,” District 7 representative Martin Leamy said.

“I got these numbers as a member of a school board about seven minutes before I got them as a parent,” District 6 representative Susan Kirby said. “I know we asked for more time to go over this data before this meeting.”

District 2 representative Jason Johnson said the board should discuss the findings of the study and survey before making a recommendation.

“We have a lot to discuss,” Johnson said. “I think we have to have some further discussions before we decide on anything.”

District 4 representative Marcus Hill agreed.

“I need to see some numbers before I vote on anything,” Hill said. “We need more data.”

BCPS Superintendent Doug Schuch recommended the board meet on Sept. 26 during a tour of the Forest Middle School expansion to discuss the issue.

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Shannon Keith covers Bedford County for The News & Advance. Reach him at (434) 385-5530.

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