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Difficult days, even more difficult decisions

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    Anytime closing schools is suggested people get upset.
    That response should be expected.
    Moneta Elementary School and Bedford Primary School were both targeted to be closed in the state-mandated efficiency study, which was released to the public and governing bodies last week.
    Bedford Primary folks aren’t new to this fight, a previous attempt to do just that failed as the parents of students there rallied and the school board relented. They'll likely fight just as hard this go around. The Moneta community, however, was shocked at its inclusion as a recommended school closure.
    And the folks in Moneta are galvanizing forces to fight this recommendation.
    Rightfully so.
    But Moneta could be facing an uphill battle. Two of three septic system drainage fields have failed in recent weeks and the school system has been trying to operate the third system on a wing and a prayer. If the school is to remain open, those drainage fields will have to be fixed.
    That’s a big chunk of money—some $400,000, or more—to be spent to fix that problem, especially if the school would be closed a year later. The school board will have some difficult decisions to address.
    The efficiency review study includes more than 100 recommendations. While not required by state law to make those changes, the board will feel intense pressure to implement most of them. The standard is a minimum of 50 percent and the average of other school systems who’ve gone through this process is a 91 percent compliance rate.
    The school closings are important to the study’s outcome because the review committee suggested the school system could save some $8 million over five years just from closing the two schools. That’s a lot of needed money as the fight for school dollars gets tougher each year.
    And the General Assembly will be looking for cost-saving measures to be implemented, or the  extra funding the county is currently receiving—and will do so for the next 14 years—could dry up much sooner than expected. That would add to the financial hardship facing the school system.
    Several school board members have favored school consolidation in recent public statements prior to the efficiency review being released. Others will have to strongly consider following in that direction.
    School closings are an emotional issue, especially for the parents and other community members with ties to that school. It’s always more difficult for them, even than for the students. Local elementary schools often serve as the community center for small communities. That is certainly true of several schools in Bedford County.
    And this recommendation won’t be easy to move forward by the School Board. Previous boards have embraced similar moves, only to step back and not move forward with it as the communities affected were heard from.
    The Bedford County Board of Supervisors must work with—and not against—the School Board in addressing these recommendations. Yea or Nay, both boards need to be on the same page when the eventual push becomes a shove to get something done.
    These will be difficult decisions.