Bedford County School Board looks at ways of easing overcrowding in the Forest area

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) The Bedford County School Board continues to look at ways of easing overcrowding in the Forest area. Thursday night, another option was put on the table when the board was presented with an analysis on rezoning.

Overcrowding at Forest Middle School is nothing new, in fact, the school peaked in population back in 2007. But with two new developments coming in, the issue has gained more attention.

Right now 958 students call Forest Middle School their home. The capacity of the building is 835, or if you calculate by square footage, 600.

One of the solutions recently presented to the school board was renovating the building and putting in an addition. That comes with a high cost: over 22 million dollars.

“I believe that all other options like redistricting should be considered before we move into another 22 and a half million dollars debt,” said Susan Falls Kirby, who represents District 6 on the school board.

Redistricting is exactly what the board looked into on Thursday night.

With projections for 2018-2019 in mind, the board was presented an analysis that considered three different zone changes in the Otter River district.

One would have all students from Otter River Elementary be put in the Liberty HS zone, the other looked at changes with the Big Otter River Line, and lastly would move the Goode Station Line.

These changes would affect whether students attend Forest Middle School or the new Liberty Middle School. Further down the road, it would ultimately affect where they go to high school as well.

The biggest impact from these changes reduced the projected population at FMS for 2018-2019 from 911 to 800.

“It's kind of like releasing a little bit of pressure, you're still bursting at the seams,” said Patti Kese, a mother of a student at FMS.

But for students like Thomas Messier, a junior at Liberty High School who has actually seen under-capacity at his school affect the education, redistricting is essential. He thinks more students need to come to Liberty.

“Saving taxpayer's money and giving students a more personalized learning experience,” said Messier.

The zoning analysis was just another option presented to the board so they can make a fully informed decision. They are meeting with the Board of Supervisors on November 9th and hope to have a better idea of how to move forward after that.