Middle school plans move ahead

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Two sites being considered

By Tom Wilmoth

    The new middle school in the Liberty Zone will be located either behind the current Liberty High School or on property donated to the county off U.S. 460 near the Bedford Area Family YMCA.
    Construction of the new school is expected to cost between $34 million to $40 million, if built for 800 students; less than that if the size of the school is smaller.
    Dennis Knight of Wiley/Wilson, a Lynchburg-based architectural and engineering firm, presented a draft report of the firm’s study of the two potential sites to the Bedford County School Board at last Thursday’s meeting. The board didn’t discuss the actual site selection, but did direct staff to begin working on the education specifications for the new school.
    As part of the reversion agreement in which Bedford became a town on July 1, the county agreed to build a new middle school to replace Bedford Middle School. The county will continue to use BMS, leasing it from the town, until the new school is opened. The county could lease the current school for up to six years, but the cost of that lease goes up substantially in the latter years.
    The school board has talked about a potential August 2016 opening date for the new middle school.
    The school board had already considered locating the new middle school on the current Liberty High School property, but the board, as a result of the study and a public hearing, determined that wasn’t feasible.
    The second phase of the middle school study looked at the Centerville Road site, located adjacent to Liberty High School, and the U.S. 460 site, about a half mile west of the town limits, on the southeast side of the intersection of Wheatland Road and U.S. 460.
    The Centerville Road site is part of a larger 292 acre undeveloped tract of land currently owned by Jimmie Morgan. About 49 acres would need to be purchased for the school.
    The U.S. 460 site is on property owned by NBI Development LLC. George Aznavorian,    owner   of    the property, has told the school board he would be willing to donate much of the 56 acres that make up the three tracts of property. He would retain a portion of that property and a portion would also be donated to the Bedford Area Family YMCA.
    The board discussed the possibility of constructing the new middle school on the property adjacent to LHS with the idea that it eventually could be converted into a new high school.
    Cost of construction at the Centerville site was estimated between $34 million to $38 million, if built for 800 students. Advantages suggested in the Wiley/Wilson study included it being located adjacent to Liberty High School, providing for the opportunity for teachers to be utilized for both schools, as well as the potential for overflow parking for LHS during high school athletic events. There would also be flexibility for future building and athletic field expansion. Because more space is available, the facility could be constructed as a one- or two-story building. Disadvantages included the need for existing roadway improvements to Otterburn Circle and Centerville Road, required utility extensions and the need to purchase the property.
    The U.S. 460 site could include the sharing of athletic field facilities between the school and the YMCA. Because the property would have less acreage, the building would need to be a two-story facility. Wiley/Wilson suggested using Wheatland Road as the access point for the school. This site would require a significant amount of grading, but there wouldn’t be any cost to purchase the property since it would be donated to the county.
    The estimated cost of building a school for 800 students on this site was between $36 million to $40 million. Advantages included its close proximity to the highway, the availability of water service, the donation of the property and the proximity to the YMCA. Disadvantages noted in the study of this site included roadway improvements needed to Wheatland Road and U.S. 460, the distance of the school from Liberty High School, the higher cost, limited expansion opportunities, required sewer extension and stormwater considerations with the existing creeks.
    While BCPS doesn’t regularly build new schools—its last major project was the renovation at Jefferson Forest High School—school staff plan to glean information from adjacent school systems that have had recent construction projects.
    School Superintendent Dr. Douglas Schuch noted that “the school of the future may look a little different” than the school of the past, or even the school of today.