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Board OK's middle school site on 6-1 vote

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By John Barnhart

On a 6-1 vote, the Bedford County School Board agreed to purchase about 50 acres next to the current Liberty High School property to build a new middle school to replace the current Bedford Middle School.
    Following a closed door session Thursday, the board agreed to purchase the property for   $6,000   per   acre,  about $300,000 in all.
    District 6 board member Kelly Harmony cast the lone vote against purchasing the property. After the meeting Harmony said she favored the other site considered by the board near the Bedford Area YMCA. Developer George Aznavorian had offered to donate about 40 acres to the county for the school; Harmony said some constituents in her district favored that site instead of the one accepted by the board.
    Construction of the new school is expected to cost between $34 million to $40 million, if built for 800 students; less than that if the size of the school is smaller.
    Wiley/Wilson, a Lynchburg-based architectural and engineering firm, conducted two studies looking at potential sites for the school earlier this year.
    As part of the reversion agreement in which Bedford became a town on July 1, the county agreed to build a new middle school to replace Bedford Middle School. The county will continue to use BMS, leasing it from the town, until the new school is opened. The county could lease the current school for up to six years, but the cost of that lease goes up substantially in the latter years.
    The school board has talked about a potential August 2016 opening date for the new middle school.
    The Centerville Road site is part of a larger 292 acre undeveloped tract of land currently owned by Jimmie Morgan. About 49 acres would need to be purchased for the school.
    The board has discussed the possibility of constructing the new middle school on the property next  to LHS with the idea that it eventually could be converted into a new high school. With that in mind, initial construction could include a competition gym which the high school could begin using now.
    Cost of construction at the Centerville site was estimated between $34 million to $38 million, if built for 800 students. Advantages suggested in the Wiley/Wilson study included it being located adjacent to Liberty High School, providing for the opportunity for teachers to be utilized for both schools as well as the potential for overflow parking for LHS during high school athletic events. There would also be flexibility for future building and athletic field expansion. Because more space is available, the facility could be constructed as a one- or two-story building.
    It is expected that an access road to the new school will run along the edge of the current LHS property off of Va. 122.