By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors received an update on the old Edinburg school renovation Tuesday night, as well as more information about likely partner United Methodist Family Services.
"We've developed a sound business model to better the county's students," said Superintendent B. Keith Rowland on the proposed program that would serve emotionally disturbed, autistic and other special education students.
Rowland said that a business model has been developed with United Methodist Family Services, and if carried out, there would be no net impact on the county's general fund. While roughly $4.5 million is required to renovate the facility, the tenant's rent to use the building would cover that cost, he said.
"This model is self-sustaining. No questions," Rowland said.
County Administrator Douglas Walker added that currently students are transported as far away as Manassas and Harrisonburg, so keeping them in the county would help cut costs as well. Surrounding school districts will be invited to participate in the program as well, which could be another possible source of revenue.
Walker and Rowland said a request for proposal should be issued in the near future, going in accordance with standard procedures for projects of the same nature.
"I know for a fact other agencies will respond to the RFP," Rowland said. While it was acknowledged that competitors were expected and welcome to respond, Walker added that direct solicitation could help expedite the process.
Executive Director of United Family Services, Greg Peters, gave the supervisors more information on the organization and what their goal was with the project.
"Our goal is to keep families together, and if that isn't possible, we create families," Peters said. The organization's "alternative" school was founded in 1978, and Peters said that 20 years of data has been collected to chart the success rate of the program.
"This is not just about education, but returning these students back to their community as a whole person," he said. "We want them ready for college, jobs ... whatever their next phase of life may be."
Peters also addressed the need for the special education students to be prepared to take SOLs.
"From day one of the program, we are working to transition them back into the public school system," he said. Peters also said that in a normal classroom, the program incorporates certified teachers, as well as aides and therapists, so that if a student has an issue it can be dealt with in the school.
Walker noted that the request for proposal would be administered by the county, which would also be the landlord for the facility. The relationship between the schools and the selected tenant would only be operational, he said.