Planners OK boarding school request
MILFORD – A request by a Christian boarding school that wants to relocate from Utah to the former Remuda Ranch property in the Sparta area has sailed through the Caroline County Planning Commission.
Abundant Life Academy, which specializes in teaching and helping troubled teenagers, is seeking a special exception permit to operate its boarding school on 75 acres of the 346-acre site, which is located off Passing Road almost seven miles east of Sparta.
The Planning Commission voted 6-0 to send the request to the Board of Supervisors with a recommendation of approval. The supervisors are scheduled to hold a public hearing at their Aug. 14 meeting in order to expedite the request. The school is seeking to relocate in September.
The school accepts teens ages 13-18; they normally attend for one year.
The academy would hire at least 40 staff locally if it relocates, a figure that does not include 12 staff families that would make the move to Virginia. It would employ pastors, therapists, teachers, groundskeepers, technology personnel, and others.
The former Remuda Ranch property includes a lake, equestrian center, gymnasium, chapel, kitchen and dining hall, and it is handicapped accessible. The academy would lease the location with an option to purchase it in the future.
The Planning Commission held a public hearing on the request last night. A few people who live near the property expressed some concerns about students who may run away from the academy. However, by the close of the meeting the neighbors were supportive of the request.
David Goode, executive director of the academy, discussed the boarding school at length with the commission and answered questions. He described the security measures the academy would have in place as well as procedures to deal with runaways.
All students are drug tested within 24 hours of arrival, said Goode. If they test positive for addictive drugs, they are removed from the school and referred to a detoxification program or other treatment, he indicated.
“I think they’ll be a great fit and look forward to having them as neighbors,” said Charles Albert, who lives nearby on Passing Road.
Goode, who attended the meeting with other representatives of the academy, was pleased with the commission vote. “I’m very excited about it,” he said.
Per the Planning Commission’s recommendation, the boarding school would be limited to 88 students and 24 staff living on the premises, which is the capacity as determined by an engineering firm that reviewed the wastewater treatment facilities of the property.
The boarding school, which is converting to nonprofit status, currently serves about 40-45 teens at any given time.
Abundant Life Academy was founded in 2000. The school serves teens who are academically unmotivated, have experimented with sex, alcohol, or drugs, rebel against parents, reject their Christian upbringing, or exhibit other problem behavior.
The former Remuda Ranch property is owned by an Ashland-based business called Beverly Run LLC.
Remuda East, which employed 73 people, was a residential behavioral treatment facility that operated in Caroline from September 2007 to March 2011. It provided services for up to 48 women for anorexia, bulimia, depression, and substance abuse.