New school will be major topic at meeting

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School board, supervisors to meet next Thursday

By Tom Wilmoth

    Steps to constructing a new secondary school in the Liberty Zone continue to fall into place, but the biggest question—just what kind of school will be built—still has to be answered.
    Members of the Bedford County School Board are hoping that a meeting next Thursday, Jan. 30, with members of the board of supervisors will bring clarification to that question.
    The reversion agreement between the former city of Bedford and Bedford County—in which the city became a town and the county took over complete control of the school system—calls for construction of a new middle school. But some in the community, and some members of the school board, have suggested a better option would be to construct a new high school and renovate the current Liberty High School to accommodate middle school students. There has also been a suggestion that if a new middle school is built, it is constructed in such a way as the two schools could share some facilities such as a competition gymnasium.
    At last Thursday’s school board meeting, the board unanimously approved the purchase of a 50-acre tract from Jimmie Morgan for the new school—located next to Liberty High School—for $289,542. Also, on Thursday, the board selected M.B. Kahn Construction Co., Inc., to serve as the construction management firm for the school project.
    The school board is hoping for clarity from the supervisors on a direction for the scope of the project during the Jan. 30 meeting.
    With that in mind, School Board chairman Gary Hostutler provided board members with a list of options for construction of the new school to discuss with the supervisors. His worksheet included the three options being considered—construction of a new middle school, construction of a new middle school designed to become a high school in the future or construction of a new high school and conversion of LHS to a middle school—with the price tags potentially ranging from $35 million for a new middle school up to $60 million for a new high school and conversion of LHS to a middle school. His worksheet included both pros and cons of the various projects along with different options for debt service, depending on how the supervisors decide to fund the project.
    Hostutler said the goal of the meeting will be to get “some kind of decision” from the supervisors on which project to pursue.
    In addition to those issues, the two boards will likely discuss other construction needs at Forest Middle School and Bedford Elementary as well as updates on the school efficiency study and the state budget. The meeting, which will be held in the School Board Office conference room, will begin at 6 p.m.