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Just say ‘yes’

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edford County is getting ready to build a new school. It’s going to happen, one way or another.
    Originally that school was slated to be a new middle school for the Liberty Zone, to replace Bedford Middle School. That’s certainly needed—so much so that the reversion agreement hammered out between Bedford County and the city of Bedford included that requirement.
    But there may be a better plan.
    The Bedford County School Board has opted to build the new school next to the current Liberty High School. That’s a wise choice and will present many opportunities for sharing facilities. It also has given rise to the thought that maybe a new high school should be built instead of a middle school. Then the current LHS facility could be updated for the middle school.
    It’s a plan worth serious study, by everyone involved. Building a new high school makes a lot of sense.
    A new middle school will cost between $35 million to $40 million to construct. Funds for that will come from the extra funding the county receives from the state through its new local composite index. Over the next 15 years the county gets to use the LCI the town (former city) would have used, which is more favorable and results in more state funding.
    Building a new high school would add another $15 million to $20 million to that price tag.
    Expensive? Yes.
    But in the long run it could save money for the county.
    Liberty High School is 50 years old and needs to be upgraded. It needs a competition gymnasium, new science labs, a new auditorium and much more. These needs aren’t going to go away, even if a new middle school is built. The county could get two for the price of one, with a little forethought. Yes, it will cost more up front. But in the long run, the county will save.
    There will be no better time to build than now. Interest rates for borrowing can’t go any lower; construction prices are competitive. Now’s the time to build – and since the county has to build a new school anyway, the high school option makes a lot of sense.
    Work has to be done in the Liberty Zone for the high school. The county has put up a lot of money the past few years for the renovation at Jefferson Forest High School and for work at Staunton River High School. But an informal poll of several supervisors last week wasn’t encouraging about garnering support for the high school option. They shouldn’t dismiss it so easily.
    This isn’t an attempt to slip something past them. It’s a real need—that isn’t going to go away.
    Building a new high school must seriously be considered. It’s a long-term solution. Yes it will cost more up front, but in the long run, the taxpayers will come out ahead—and, more importantly, so will the students in this part of the county.
    Saying “no” is the easy answer,  but not the right one.