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Edinburg School lease plan reviewed

By Kim Walter - kwalter@nvdaily.com

The Shenandoah County Board of Supervisors met for a work session Thursday to review updated versions of the lease agreement between the county and Charterhouse School Inc. and the comprehensive agreement with Caldwell Santmyer regarding the renovation of the old Edinburg school and Historic Courthouse.

Both documents had been discussed Wednesday during the Edinburg school project committee's meeting, where representatives from Charterhouse and Caldwell Santmyer were present, County Administrator Doug Walker said.

Walker explained that while the updated documents had "effectively and fully defined" terms, there was still ongoing conversation and work between the county attorney and that of Charterhouse. He said that a "near final" version would be presented to the board at its Oct. 9 meeting, during which two public hearings will be held concerning the project.

As presented Thursday, the lease agreement term will last for 30 years, something that Walker said is not usual for Charterhouse. It can be extended, given mutual consent, for up to six additional five-year terms.

"This lease, however, may be terminated by either party upon 365 days' notice," the draft lease states. It goes on to say that after the second year of lease, "if Charterhouse's average annual census drops to 20 or fewer students, it may terminate the lease at the end of the succeeding full semester of the school year in which that threshold is realized."

A section on criminal background checks in the lease says that "Charterhouse certifies to the county that none of its employees ... who will be present on the leased premises ... have been convicted of a felony, any offense involving sexual molestation, physical or sexual abuse or rape of a child, or a felony involving lying, cheating or stealing, or have been the subject of a founded case of child abuse or neglect."

Exhibit B in the lease agreement outlines the educational plan for Charterhouse. It says that instruction, during the 2013-2014 school year, will be given to those students who are emotionally disturbed and have autism and are in grades six through 12, not to exceed 40 students.

"In subsequent years, it shall provide instruction to pupils in grades K-12, not to exceed 60 students," it says. Summer school is also addressed in the document, and will be offered.

The document also says that "Charterhouse will establish rates for education and related services annually."

Walker said that much of the content was already understood, but was making it a priority to keep all the details and the process in front of the board.

"We're translating our understanding into writing so there are no surprises," he said.

Walker also described the comprehensive agreement between the county and Caldwell Santmyer, the design-builder for the renovation of the school. He said that a guaranteed maximum price for Caldwell Santmyer's services was set at $4.395 million, and noted that the project was budgeted at $4.5 million.

"We will have the extra $105,000 to buy FFE ... furniture, fixtures and equipment," Walker said. He added that Charterhouse would be responsible for the purchase of technology equipment as "part of their business model."

"If we have have to dip into that $150,000, that's not an override," said board member Dennis Morris. "We need to make that very clear."

The detailed schedule for the renovation of the Edinburg school, as well as the simultaneous renovation of the Historic Courthouse, is still being put together, Walker said. Ideally it would be finished by August 2013 so that Charterhouse could move in.

Two public hearings will be held at the board's meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 9, and will cover the financing and lease agreement for the project.


Maybe someone in the know can answer this. How much will the county have to pay to send its students there after we've paid 5 million to fix it up?

It will be cheaper than having to send them OUT of the county for these services. Many kids with autism or other related educational difficulties are currently transported to schools in other localities - like Minnick or Shenandoah Academy, both of which are in Harrisonburg. The county picks up the tab for transporting those kids in cars (not buses), as well as the tuition costs.
To me, it doesn't matter what the cost is, all kids deserve a decent education, and it's hard to serve kids with these difficulties in a regular public education setting.

"Educational difficulties" is a nice way of saying Discipline Problems and Bad Apples. Sure, there may be a few honest special needs students there, but most are labeled as such to get them out of the classroom.

I feel bad for the residents of Edinburg who will be subjected to these little educational difficulties. All this is is a business deal. The commodity is delinquents, the profiteers are the county and the victims are the residents of the Town of Edinburg.

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