By Kim Walter -- firstname.lastname@example.org
After months of meeting with agencies, Superintendent B. Keith Rowland says the county is "right on the verge" of completing a partnership with United Methodist Family Services to take on the part of the old Edinburg school that will be a facility for emotionally disturbed and autistic students.
The private nonprofit organization has a "great track record" and high success rate according to Rowland. He said originally the county planned to take on a special education program, but found that the process was "a little bit more in depth than we thought."
"We've met with them multiple times and told them what we would like our program to look like," he said. "We agree with their beliefs."
Rowland said the goal of the program is to prepare its students with skills to help them obtain employment.
The contract with United Methodist Family Services will require the organization to pay rent for using the old school making it "cost-free to the county."
The Board of Supervisors allocated around $4 million for the facility's renovation, and Rowland says the collected rent should cover that cost.
A little more than 30 students are potential candidates for the school, Rowland said, but he'd like to have at least 40 by the time the school is set to open in the fall of 2013.
"Space is one aspect of why we chose 40 as a good student population, but we also need that many to supply UMFS with an appropriate amount of revenue to make them feel comfortable paying rent," he said. "It's real hard to sell a product that doesn't exist yet."
The potential students would come from Clarke, Page, Rockingham and Shenandoah counties. Rowland said that each school division will be responsible for transporting the participating students.
While there is no tie between the planned school and the regional special education program, Rowland wanted to point out that "just because United Methodist is part of the name, it doesn't mean they'll be teaching Bible classes."
"There is no religious affiliation," he said.
The partnership and project will be up a topic of discussion at Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting at the Shenandoah County Government Center in Woodstock at 7 p.m.