Bedford County leaders approve funding for school projects

Forest Middle School upgrades top of the list for supervisors

BEDFORD, Va. – Bedford County is one step closer to renovations at Forest Middle School. One hold up has been funding, but Tuesday night the board of supervisors approved a plan that it hopes can solve the problem.

Tuesday night's Bedford board of supervisors meeting was moved to a elementary school gym for good reason as more than 100 people showed up to find out about the future of Forest Middle School. Supervisors voted 6 to 1 in favor of funding a renovation project with limited conditions on building, and no redistricting.

"This brings us in for a soft landing and I believe it demonstrates to the state as well as our community that we're being responsible with these monies," Bedford County supervisor John Sharp said.

Supporters were satisfied with the plan that secures a loan at $22.5 million, uses $1.7 million already int he bank, and draws from a capital improvement account that the county promises to deposit into over ten years. The plan would be $500,000 the first year and then that amount would increase by $500,000 every year thereafter for a grand total by year ten of $27 million. That money is earmarked for projects across the division and the school board can decide how much of it to use on the Forest project.

"We need to remember there's not a Liberty zone, there's not a Staunton River zone, there's not a Jefferson Forest zone," plan supporter Pattie Kese said. "It's Bedford County Public Schools so I'm hoping it will alleviate some of that division." 

A strong showing also came out to voice their opposition to the plan. They feel the math just doesn't add up and want redistricting along with other options to be back on the table."

"We just build Liberty Middle School for 750 students at $29 million, they're asking for $29 million to increase their school capacity by 400 kids," opponent Chris Burley said.

County leaders laid out that $27 million for capital improvement funds as the way to bridge the gap. It's now up to school leaders to decide how much of that will go to the Forest Middle School project.

"What the supervisors were saying tonight at least what I heard was they wanted us to be committed to not just this project, but to all of the projects that we have facing us and we have many of them," Bedford County Schools Superintendent Doug Schuch said.

The school upgrades are still expected to be complete by 2020. The school board meets Thursday at 5 p.m. to make a decision of where to go from here.

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