Bedford County Capital Improvement Plan shines a spotlight on Forest Middle expansion

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7)-- In Bedford County, a possible expansion project to Forest Middle School was a topic of conversation Thursday night.

The School Board and the Board of Supervisors met to plan out the next five years financially. The expansion project is expected to cost about 22.5 million dollars, and that would require some financial planning.

County leaders packed the meeting room at the Bedford Area Welcome Center flipping through packets of documents.

“A plan for capital investments that we hope to make for the county for the next 5 years,” said Reid Wodicka, Deputy County Administrator for Bedford County as he introduced the proposed Capital Improvement Plan.

The presentation looked at the big projects from now until 2023 and developed a framework on how the county could fund them.

71 percent of those projects would be construction related and the biggest one was the Forest Middle expansion.

“Forest Middle has been defined by the school board as one of their priority areas,” said Wodicka.

A 22.5 million dollar plan to get students out of mobile units and make improvements on the school itself, but as the Board of Supervisors and the School Board came together, not everyone was sold.

“My major concern is the safety of the kids in the mobile units they need to be in a classroom, but the numbers I see at new liberty middle is a 700 capacity and we're only going to be at 600,” said Andy Dooley, Supervisor for District 6 of Bedford County.

This is a concern that a lot of people have pointed out. The new Liberty Middle School is slated to be under-capacity for next year’s school year, while Forest Middle will continue to be over capacity. From supervisors to students, people are pushing to redistrict and change the Otter River Line to have those students attend Liberty zoned schools instead.

“It can potentially solve both problems without having to spend anything,” said Nicole Cico a Senior at Liberty High school who has seen the under capacity at Liberty affect her education.

Junior Thomas Messier even made a graph explaining the benefits of redistricting.

As county leaders are planning for the future, county students are making their voices heard and asking for more solutions.

“No harm in trying. There's no reason to put more debt on the table when there's solutions that haven't been tried,” said Emily Neel, a Sophomore at Liberty HS.