Bent Mountain Elementary property still up for debate
ROANOKE COUNTY–The Roanoke County School Board may have decided to close Bent Mountain Elementary School, but the property’s future is still up for grabs.
A number of organizations have shown interest in the building, including a non-profit performing arts group from Floyd.
The citizens of Bent Mountain, however, are hoping that the property will be left in their hands.
Since 1872, Bent Mountain has had its own elementary school. Of course, the school most likely started in a home or church, and eventually became a one room school house, before transforming into today’s large structure.
“There is a history behind this school,” Joan Carver of the Bent Mountain woman’s club said. “And most people don’t realize that.”
For more than a century, the school has been the heart of the close-knit community. And now their school, the mainstay of their community, has been taken away.
With so little to unite the small community, a focal point such as a school is essential.
“Quality of life depends on the connections between people,” said Ed Elswick, Windsor Hills representative on the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors.
That is why the Bent Mountain woman’s club members hope to transform the school building into a community center, making it even more of a draw for the locals.
“We want to keep the people together. Especially now that our kids are going to different schools,” Ann Kovats, a woman’s club member, said.
The citizens are already making plans for the community center, and hope to join with Roanoke County Parks and Recreation to offer activities such as Friday night dinners, bluegrass concerts, barn dances, classes, and even bingo.
“Whatever kinds of activities bring the community together,” Elswick said.
While there are many administrative issues still to be resolved, Elswick believes that the County could pay the School Board a dollar a year to lease the building. Roanoke County would still maintain Bent Mountain Elementary, and the citizens could use it at their will.
For any of the Bent Mountain citizens’ dreams to come true, however, they first have to compete with outside forces who also want the building. While no formal proposals have been submitted, Roanoke County Public Schools Superintendent Lorraine Lange is meeting with groups who have an interest in the building.
The School Board is waiting on formal proposals.
Lange anticipates receiving a proposal from the Roanoke County Board of Supervisors, offering to lease the building themselves, so that the people of Bent Mountain and Roanoke County Parks and Recreation can turn the school into a community center.
“We’re open to all proposals,” Lange said.
For now, Bent Mountain Elementary School’s future is very much up in the air, and the School Board has the final authority. Until the building is turned over to an organization, no concrete plans can be made.
“We know a lot of the things we want to do. We just can’t do it yet,” Elswick said.