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With the money available, the gymnasium project at Bedford Primary School should proceed without delay

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Staunton River will get its office space renovated this summer but students at Bedford Primary School will have to continue to wait to see if they will get a gymnasium. Let’s hope that wait isn’t too long.

    At its meeting last week the school board learned that the project will be delayed — at least for a couple of months — while a committee made up of school board  and board of supervisors members, along with county and school board staff, consider the long-term implications of the project. At the center of the issue appears to be what the primary school might be used for years down the road if, and when, the city of Bedford reverts to town status.

    Discussion to build the primary school gym began last year as it became apparent that up to $2 million would be left over from the construction projects at Jefferson Forest and Staunton River high schools. The prevailing thought at the time was that the left-over money would be able to be used by the school system to tackle some smaller construction projects, including the office renovation at SRHS, bleacher upgrades at the high school football fields and the new gym at Bedford Primary. In fact, at least one school board member voiced a desire to see the primary school project tackled first.

    Six months later, however, the office renovations are set to begin as soon as school ends, the school board has approved the work on the bleachers, but the gymnasium project continues to get pushed back.

    That’s unfortunate, because it should be at the top of the list.

    The fact is that with a student population that added second grade this year, that school is in desperate need of a gymnasium. Currently the cafeteria pulls triple duty at the school. Besides being used to provide nutrition it is also used as a space for physical education classes and as a makeshift auditorium. It’s appropriately been dubbed the school’s cafe-gym-autorium. The school needs a gym.

    Apparently the working committee of the two boards wants to take a look at the school system’s recently-completed facilities’ study before allowing the project to move ahead. The county wants to see long-term plans for the Liberty zone schools. That’s all well and good, but unless the county is ready to ante up major dollars for the construction of a new middle school and an elementary school in the next year — something that’s not likely given the current economic situation — the delay is without merit. There may eventually be changes to the Liberty zone school, changes need to be made. But those will likely be years down the road and in the meantime the students at Bedford Primary suffer the consequences of the delay.

    The cost of constructing the gymnasium has gone down this past year and two companies have submitted proposals on the project.  The money is available and the need is there. The working committee should make sure this delay is short-lived and get the project back on track, sooner rather than later.