Bedford School Tours Help Determine Closures

Bedford County, VA- Saturday Bedford County school board members, maintenance workers, and concerned citizens toured two Bedford County Elementary schools to see which one will be shut down. The county has decided to close either Body Camp or Moneta Elementary in an effort to save money.

Although the closure is only a recommendation from a state-mandated study, the School Board feels it's in the best interest of the county to follow that advice.

Bedford County citizen Scott Shepherd is not on board with the county's decision to close a school. He says there were one hundred and one recommendations from the study, and shutting school doors is only one of those.

"I think there was just kind of a knee jerk reaction to one recommendation that says close two schools," said Shepherd.

He says if the school board would review that report and take some time to focus on other changes they could still save money and keep the schools open.

"At least the facts would be there and everyone would know instead of just rushing to a judgment," said Shepherd.

The School Board says they most likely will shut down one school this year and another in the future.

"I think that's what the state efficiency study shows, is that the smaller schools are less efficient."said Chairman of the Bedford County School board Gary Hostutler.

Enrollment is declining and if they don't get up to par, they will lose state funding.

"We would jeopardize 90 million dollars of school funding over the next 15 years, and the only alternative to that is raise property taxes ten cents," said Hostutler.

It's a hard decision.

"We understand the emotions of the community and their concerns and we're going to do our best to relieve those," said Hostutler.

Body Camp says their school is fully functioning.

"It's a mess, they've pitted two communities against each other. The schools are only seven miles apart," said Don Ferguson who is a parent of a student at Body Camp.

Moneta has a septic problem that will cost somewhere around 400 thousand dollars to fix. The school board says that problem is a consideration, but that Body Camp is an older school and could have long term expenses.

"I'm not against Body Camp, looking at the facts, I went through both schools and it's obvious," said Gavin Hager who is a parent of a child at Moneta.

The bottom line, the school system just don't have enough money, and keeping schools open would mean higher taxes on residents.

"We have the lowest real estate tax of any county in the region," said Shepherd.

"We need to pay more taxes. We don't have the funds to maintain schools," said Ferguson.

Bedford Primary and Thaxton Elementary are two other schools up for closure. The school board says they will look into which of those to close this fall.

The Bedford County School Board will have a meeting and make a decision about Body Camp and Moneta on Thursday night June 5th.