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Bedford area sixth graders, now holding classes at the Bedford Science and Technology Center, will likely be moved next year, probably to Bedford Elementary School.
Bedford County School Superintendent Dr. James Blevins has asked the school board to consider moving second grade classes, currently meeting at the elementary school, to Bedford Primary School to free up space for the sixth graders to move to Bedford Elementary.
"This scenario would free-up much-needed space at BSTC for additional programs that would add to the diversity of career areas that we could provide educational training for," Blevins said in a letter to the school board. "Also, I feel that this would provide future students in the sixth grade a more instructionally sound environment in which to learn."
For some time, school board members have expressed an interest in having the sixth grade classes moved from BSTC, with a desire to expand programs at that school.
"I think it's a great idea," stated School Board member Mickey VanDerwerker.
Currently about 130 sixth graders from the city zone meet at BSTC.
Parents were made aware of the proposal last week and school officials expect to bring the recommendation back to the school board early next year.
That wasn't the only suggestion Thursday on how to handle the sixth grade class situation within the Liberty zone.
During a day-long work session held at the Bedford Welcome Center, another suggestion involved looking at moving eighth graders from the current Bedford Middle School to Liberty High School, making room for all of the zone's sixth graders to move to the middle school.
That possibility, floated by School Board member Debbie Hoback, came up during a discussion of the school system's update to its capital improvement plan. The current plan calls for a new middle school to be built in the next several years, but current debt service limits placed on the school board by the county, would hinder any such action. The current Jefferson Forest High School renovation and construction project, along with the construction of a new gymnasium at Staunton River High School, have used up the $8 million debt limit ceiling the school system currently has.
According to Hoback, moving eighth graders to LHS would limit the construction needed to help solve the middle school situation. The student population at LHS is in decline, down from some 1,100 students to just over 1,000.
Also included in the school CIP is the construction of a new gymnasium at LHS. That would have to be included in any move of eighth graders to LHS, discussion by board members during the work session noted. By freeing up the space at BMS, all of the sixth graders in the Liberty zone could be moved to one location. Currently they are scattered around the various feeder elementary schools, along with those meeting at BSTC.
Board members noted, however, that other middle school issues would still remain, even if such a change in the Liberty zone was pursued.
One such issue would be at Forest Middle School, where all of the sixth grade students meet in mobiles at the school. The plan for a new middle school would alleviate that, but otherwise construction to house the sixth graders might need to be considered at FMS.
The school board discussed hiring consultants to prepare an in-depth study of the school system's current and future needs and county demographics and population projections, along with proposed options on how to meet those future needs.