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After hearing Thursday from two parents whose children would be affected by a new out-of-county transfer policy, the Bedford County School Board changed course to allow almost two dozen students to attend county schools without having to pay tuition.
Sue Downs-Loyd and Annmarie Finnegan each spoke to the board about the negative impact the policy, as originally passed, had on their children.
Downs-Loyd said her son, a rising senior, had attended school in Bedford County for most of his school career. She said since 2005, after transferring into Forest Middle School, he has been approved to stay in the Forest zone without any problems. And though they own property in the Smith Mountain Lake area of the county but live in Lynchburg, she said her son, this year, was told he could not attend Jefferson Forest High School for his senior year.
She asked for a waiver for her son and others like him, stating it would have devastated her son to have to attend a new school for his final year.
Finnegan had a similar issue. Her daughter was set to begin her final year at Forest Middle School when she received the letter that she could no longer attend that school, even though the family owns property in the county, though it’s also not their primary residence.
Finnegan said the family had followed past policy in the county and had not expected that to change. “We did everything we had to do before we made the life change for our daughter (when they moved her to FMS),” she said.
The board approved its new transfer policy in April and letters went out to parents soon after that. The policy included treating those who own property in the county, that is not their primary residence, as those living outside the county who want to transfer into the school system. That means students outside of the county cannot attend schools that are deemed to be full. The policy stated that those students would have to apply to attend the school each year and would have to pay $3,360 in tuition.
Twenty-three students whose parents own land in the county that is not their primary residence were affected by the policy change.
But after discussion Thursday, the board took action to allow those students the opportunity to attend school in the county without being affected by the policy changes.
“My feeling is if you pay taxes in Bedford County you can come to school in Bedford County,” Board Chairman Debbie Hoback stated.
District 4 Board member Gary Hostutler disagreed, voting against the waiver for the students. “We have to set some kind of standard here,” he said.