The Bedford County School Board has decided to ask for more input from residents before making recommendations about the future of the division’s elementary schools.
The Bedford County School Board — which met during a special-called meeting Sept. 26 — directed staff to resend a survey asking residents to give an opinion about the findings of a facility condition assessment of all 13 elementary schools in Bedford County. The assessment — which was presented by Warrenton-based Downey & Scott LLC in June — assessed the condition of elementary schools in the county.
Mac Duis, the division’s chief operations officer, said the division approved a $34,000 contract with Downey & Scott in November 2018 to assess the condition of elementary schools in the county.
According to the assessment, only six of the 13 elementary schools in Bedford County — Bedford, Big Island, Forest, Goodview, Montvale and Thomas Jefferson — partially or fully comply with current building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The remaining seven schools — Bedford Primary School, New London Academy and Boonsboro, Huddleston, Moneta, Otter River and Stewartsville elementary schools — do not comply with current building codes and the ADA.
Some of the options given in the assessment included:
n Re-purposing Bedford Primary for adaptive reuse and building a 24,000-square-foot addition onto Bedford Elementary with room for additional student capacity. Estimated costs would be $8.4 million; or renovating Bedford Primary School. Estimated costs would be $10.8 million;
n Consolidate Moneta and Huddleston elementary schools and construct a new 100,000-square-foot, 650-seat capacity school. Estimated costs would be $39.1 million; renovate Moneta Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $8 million; or renovate Huddleston Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $8.6 million; and
n Re-purposing the Stewartsville Elementary building and constructing a large classroom addition onto Goodview Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $16 million; or renovating Stewartsville Elementary School. Estimated costs would be $14.7 million.
Duis said the division issued about 5,000 surveys to parents and faculty members of the three zones to collect input on their preferences presented in the study and the division received about 600 responses.
“We also held several focus groups with parents and faculty of the schools,” Duis said. “We didn’t get a big response but that is all we have to go on.”
The results of the initial surveys were presented during the Sept. 11 meeting of the Bedford County School Board, but several school board members questioned the results.
“I got this survey on the first day of school when I was getting a ton of other emails,” District 6 representative Susan Kirby said. “We need to give people a chance to weigh in on this.”
District 2 representative Jason Johnson agreed.
“I would like to hear more from the public before we recommend anything” Johnson said. “We need more input before making a decision like this.”
BCPS Superintendent Doug Schuch said staff could send out an additional survey to parents of elementary school students in Bedford County and meet with the school board for an additional meeting between the school board’s Oct. 10 meeting and the board’s scheduled joint meeting with the Bedford County Board of Supervisors in November, when the school board will present recommendations concerning future CIP projects for the division’s elementary schools.
“This is the first time information like this has been out there,” Schuch said. “We sent it out at the beginning of the year so people would get it early and give their opinions so we can go to the November meeting with the board of supervisors with a consensus.”
District 7 representative Martin Leamy requested the survey be sent home in print form to parents and that the survey include a space to include comments.
“We can’t exclude parents just because they don’t have internet,” Leamy said. “We want to hear their opinions too as well as their ideas because they might have something we missed.”
Schuch said he would direct staff to allow parents that do not have internet access and cannot complete the survey online to call the schools of their children and submit their responses to the principal of each school.
“Our principals do things like this all the time,” Schuch said. “This is important and we want everyone to get an opportunity to respond so I know they will do this.”
Duis said notification about the new survey should be sent home with each elementary student in Bedford County on Oct. 1 with instructions and deadlines concerning participation in the survey.
“We are hoping for good participation,” Duis said. “This information will help the board move forward with these decisions.”