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Doing their homework... and sharing it on Facebook

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Fight to save school hits the social media

By Tom Wilmoth

You can hand it to the parents of students from Bedford Primary School: They’re doing their homework.

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    They’ve come to meetings to challenge a proposal to close the school armed with studies, alternate proposals and even, possibly, a legal loophole.
    They’ve used the tried and true — good old footwork to get hundreds of names on petitions opposing the closure—and new technology to research and spread their message through the social media.
    Stated Sara Reynolds Holdren on the recently created Facebook page Keep Bedford Primary School Open: “It’s time once again for all of us to regroup, pull our resources together, and continue the fight to save Bedford Primary School.”
    The ever-growing members of the group continue to let their voices be heard.
    “Continue to add friends to the ‘Keep Bedford   Primary   School   Open ’ Facebook Page,” Holdren stated in a post Tuesday. “For the folks who are not on Facebook, let’s make an effort to keep them in the loop!”
    She also urged the Facebook page group to stay in contact with members of the Bedford County School Board and Bedford City Council.
    “My current and general understanding of the monetary side of things is that if they really want to keep BPS open, then there is money out there to be found. Therefore the argument is really about what the community wants versus a particular agenda held by one or more individuals,” Holdren’s post stated.
    Posts to the Facebook page on the issue have been frequent this past week. It now boasts more than 160 members.
    Holdren urged a large turnout for the city council meeting next Tuesday, March 8, 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers on the second floor of the Municipal Building, 215 E. Main St.
    Though it hasn’t taken a stand yet, council is expected to discuss the issue at that meeting. Both Bedford Mayor Skip Tharp and City Manager Charles Kolakowski attended Thursday’s school board meeting.
    “It was interesting to hear the passion and the concern (of the parents),” Tharp said of that meeting, adding that the parents had presented some logical and appropriate reasons why the school should remain open.
    One of those could be a legal issue between the city and county.
    Currently the city has a contract with Bedford County for the county to provide school services for city students. The city owns Bedford Middle School and Bedford Elementary School. Though it’s located in the city, the county owns Bedford Primary School.
    But in that contract, there is a statement that educational services must be provided at the locations of College Street (Bedford Primary) and Burks Hill Road (Bedford Elementary). It is stated that either the city council or the county board of supervisors may terminate the agreement effective at the end of any fiscal year by giving written notice of such termination, but not less than three years prior to the proposed termination date.
    According to Tharp, the city attorney has been researching what this wording might mean to the proposal to close BPS this year.
    “That was enlightening and nothing that we had really been made aware of,” Tharp said of that wording in the contract.
    Tharp said he plans to talk with all of the council members individually about the school board’s proposal prior to next week’s council meeting.
    “I’m going to bring them up to date on it,” he said. That will include any legal opinion from counsel on the wording of the school contract.
    “We need to see what the obligation is, under the contract, as far as to how the kids are educated,” Tharp said. “We will get that data and weigh all that.”
    He said the goal is “to do the right thing by our children.”
    “Obviously the school has a wonderful reputation,” he said of the outpouring of support against closing Bedford Primary. He added that there is a concern to make sure special needs children receive the services they need.
    He said he was delighted with the turnout of support by BPS parents at the school board meeting.
    “Local government is about local people,” he said.
    He said council’s role will be to take a “thoughtful approach and an appropriate approach” to the issue.
    “I empathize with them.,” he said of the public’s outcry on the issue.
    While Tharp said he ultimately doesn’t yet know what the outcome will—or even should—be, he appreciates the work being done on behalf of the school.
    “They were well spoken, they knew what they were talking about,” he said of those speaking at last week’s school board meeting. “I understand the logic and reasoning of where they are coming from.”
    The school board had no comment Monday on the issue of the wording of the contract.
    At action during a council meeting last week, Bedford City Council:
    • Awarded a contract to Morgan Corporation for planned upgrades at Stoney Creek Reservoir, the city’s main water source. The  company’s $5.3 million bid was the lowest among four received for the project.
    • Approved a land exchange with Greater Independence Development LLC. The developer will receive a parcel at the northeast intersection of Independence Boulevard and Orange Street and the city will receive a parcel next to its former landfill on Orange Street.