Enforce the contract

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That’s the message BPS supporters want sent

By John Barnhart

    Parents of children at Bedford Primary School had one request when they spoke to Bedford City Council last week — enforce the contract.

    The city of Bedford contracts with Bedford County for educational services and one cost cutting proposal being considered by the Bedford County School Board is closing Bedford Primary. Though it’s located in the city, the county owns Bedford Primary School.
    The parents were urging city council to enforce the contract because it contains a statement that educational services must be provided at the locations of College Street (Bedford Primary) and Burks Hill Road (Bedford Elementary). It is also 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.
    Five people spoke before City Council, explaining why they believe closing the school is a bad move.
    The plan calls for the children at Bedford Primary to go to Bedford Elementary School which, Elisabeth Flynn told City Council, will result in a serious crowding problem. Flynn identified hereself as a teacher with a master’s degree in special education.
    Flynn said that there are 32 classrooms at Bedford Elementary and three of these are used as computer classrooms. Nine of the remaining 29 are used for other purposes, making only 20 classrooms available. She also cited a Hays, Seay, Mattern & Mattern. Inc. study, done in 2002 that sets the capacity of Bedford Elementary School at 620 students, based on a class size of 20 students per classroom and the availability of 31 classrooms. She said that, according to figures provided by the school division’s central office, enrollment at Bedford Elementary is projected to be 640 on March 23 of this year. Flynn said that Bedford Elementary already exceeds its maximum capacity before any Bedford Primary students are sent there.
    According to Flynn, citing figures provided by the school division, there are currently 116 sixth graders at Bedford Elementary. The school consolidation plan calls for the sixth grade to be sent to Bedford Middle School. There are 332 students at Bedford Primary, including 118 in kindergarten.
    Along with a serious overcrowding problem, Flynn said that the consolidation creates a problem finding classroom space. If 29 classrooms are available for general education classrooms, it leaves no space for Title I reading teachers or special education teachers, she stated.
    “Where are their classrooms going to be?” she asked.
    Flynn said that by closing Bedford Primary, the school division is giving up 22 classroom spaces. These spaces consist of 17 general education classrooms, a computer lab, a room for Title I reading remediation and three special education classrooms.
    “Every space is being utilized,” she said. “They even hold remediation classes in the ends of the hallways.”
    “Our children need the classroom  space to learn and grow,” Flynn concluded. “Please uphold the contract and save our school.”
    “It’s up to the city leaders to protect the rights of the students of Bedford city,” commented Tabitha King, another speaker.  “It is evident with the targeting of the closure of Bedford Primary School  and the omission of other much smaller county schools  that our city students have no voice and no one fighting for their rights and best interest.”
    King said that, if the city enforces the three-year notification provision in the school contract, it will give time for a better solution to be found.
    Wanda Gardner brought up the issue of traffic safety at the intersection of Tiger Trail, which leads to Bedford Elementary School, and Va. 122. Gardner said that 6,400 vehicles go past that intersection on Va. 122 every day and 227 vehicles turn onto Tiger Trail when school opens. Moving the Bedford Primary students to Bedford Elementary means that even more will be making that turn on school mornings, she pointed out.
    Speakers also noted the negative impact that a vacant building will have on the surrounding neighborhood if Bedford Primary is closed.