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Future use of old Edinburg Middle focus of School Board, supervisors joint meeting

By Sally Voth-svoth@nvdaily.com

ORKNEY SPRINGS -- A regional day treatment center for students with special needs, which is expected to be part of the renovation of the old Edinburg Middle School, is generating interest, according to the superintendent of Shenandoah County Public Schools.

Keith Rowland told county supervisors and the School Board on Monday that "opening next fall is out of the question," and there appears to be more interest in opening at the beginning of the 2013 school year, rather than midway through the 2012 year.

One day before its anticipated selection of a firm to design renovations at the old middle school, as well as the historic courthouse in Woodstock, the Board of Supervisors spent a large chunk of a joint meeting with the School Board discussing the future use of the Edinburg building.

Conversion of the former school into a regional day treatment program would not only eliminate the need -- and the cost -- of sending such pupils out of district, but also bring in tuition fees for students from other areas, officials have said.

When word of the program gets out, parents may be quicker to move to the area, Rowland said.

"This is very unique across the commonwealth," he said. "There's no other program quite like this because of the vocational piece.

"The program is unique itself. It's not the facility. The facility is part of what will make it successful. Having a vocational piece is very unique. It's about career readiness."

Done right, the program "could be the model for the state of Virginia, couldn't it?" District 5 Supervisor Dennis Morris asked.

There has been discussion about moving some vocational training out of Triplett Tech so room could be made at that school for fire and rescue courses.

However, District 3 Supervisor David Ferguson suggested that the fire and rescue training center at the landfill be used for that purpose.

"I agree if you do not have to transport [special-needs] students to Northern Virginia ... I think it's a good thing," Ferguson said. "Where I start to have some concerns is the debt service required to do the facility as it has been proposed. When we started the project, I thought we were going to renovate the old school."

Now, it's being proposed to build more space at the school, Ferguson said.

That hasn't been decided, County Administrator Doug Walker said.

"That's going to be decided after you hire the firm," he said.

Walker said the proposals could allow the county to hire a firm to give it ideas about possible solutions.

"But, they haven't designed it yet," Walker said. "You're hiring the contractor at the same time you're hiring the architect.

"But, you're not going to get a project that you don't want. You're not going to get a project that you can't afford because you're going to make that decision as you go."

He said the board would negotiate with and enter into an interim agreement with the firm it would select Tuesday. That agreement would enable the company to perform the next phase of services, including some percentage of site work, Walker said. At the end of that phase, the county would receive the guaranteed maximum price.

"At any point, if you're not comfortable, you can stop," Walker said.

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