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Board looks at middle school options

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Will take action on a plan at its Jan. 14 meeting

By John Barnhart

    A design committee, consisting of school officials and community and student representatives, met early this month and settled on two possible designs for the new middle school that will be built in the Liberty zone.

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    Representatives of Moseley Architects presented the results to the school board at its regular meeting Thursday night.
    According to the Moseley representatives, the session produced the two  out  of  a  field of 11  possible designs. Six architects and two civil engineers from Moseley worked with the committee.
    The two plans the committee settled on are a two-story school and a one story school.
    According to Moseley, the two-story plan offers the advantage of a more compact footprint and an internal courtyard. It would have a two story media room. It also allows daylight into more of the rooms than the one-story option. Another advantage is that it allowed the architects to create a front entrance that is reminiscent of the current Bedford Middle School building’s front. This plan has 140,000 feet of floor space.
    The one-story option has three wings, one for each grade, that extend from the central portion like fingers. It provides 129,000 feet of floor space. Its larger roof area offers more space for photo-voltaic arrays, should the school board want to go in that direction at a later time. Both school designs equal in energy efficiency. The architects said this design will be both easier to reduce and easier to expand.
    The committee also preferred having the school’s access road go through the existing Liberty High School property, rather than an access that would branch off a residential neighborhood. District 1 school board member Richard Downy was concerned about this and said he would need to know how much it would cost before making a decision.
    “The less money we put in access and roads, the more we can put in education,” Downey said.
    Both the Moseley representatives and an M. B. Kahn representative promised to have an estimate in time for the school board’s Jan. 14 meeting. The school board plans to decide on a plan at that meeting.
    Randy Hagler, the school division’s chief financial officer, brought some good news. The school division has $490,000 left over from the last school year that can be re-appropriated to the school division’s maintenance fund. The school board is scheduled to take action on this at its Jan. 14 meeting and Hagler plans to present the request of re-appropriation to the board of supervisors at the supervisors’ Jan. 25 meeting.
    Tim Parker, director of human resources, told the school board that the school division has received proposals from two companies to do a pay study. Parker said he is looking for the study to be completed by the end of March.
    The school board will move to having regular meetings once a month next year. The meetings will be held on the second Thursday of each month, starting with Jan. 14. Next month will also see a joint work session between the school board and the board of supervisors on Jan. 25. The supervisors have tentatively scheduled a work session for 5 p.m. that day. School Board Chairman Gary Hostutler said he expects the new school board to be more supportive of schools.
    Dr. Douglas Schuch told the school board he is happy that President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act, which replaces No Child Left Behind. The President signed the act Thursday morning. The new law retains No Child Left Behind’s testing requirement, but returns accountability to the states. Dr. Schuch said educational policy should be left to the states. He said Virginia’s standards of learning are one of the best in the country.
    “The good thing it did was get rid of the waivers,” commented Dr. Schuch.
    The waivers were prompted by No Child’s requirement that all schools eventually reach a point where they have a 100 percent pass rate on the tests and that point has already been reached. States had to seek waivers to prevent all their schools from being declared to be failing and the waivers came with strings attached — greater federal control.
    Dr. Schuch described No Child Left Behind as being well intentioned but unrealistic.
    He said Every Child Succeeds passed Congress with wide bi-partisan support.