Academy to host public meeting

Posted on Wednesday, August 29, 2012 at 4:24 pm

Although Abundant Life Academy officials were told they could not relocate to Caroline County, they are still seeking to get opponents on their side.

Officials with the Utah-based Christian boarding school will hold a meeting and question-and-answer session at the former Remuda East facility near Sparta at 4 p.m. Sept. 9. A barbecue dinner will follow.

The public is invited to attend to learn more about the academy, and school officials also have invited the Board of Supervisors and Sheriff Tony Lippa.

The academy sought a special exception permit for 75 acres of the former Remuda East facility, which is located off Passing Road about seven miles east of Sparta, in order to relocate from Utah to Caroline.

However, the Board of Supervisors voted 4-2 to deny the request after a public hearing at its Aug. 14 regular meeting.

The academy’s request won unanimous support from the county’s Planning Commission following a public hearing in July.

Since then, however, the request apparently troubled some residents of the rural Sparta community. Although only a couple of Sparta residents spoke against the school during the board’s public hearing, one person also presented a petition signed by about a dozen opponents of the school. Lippa also raised questions about the academy’s plans for security.

Since the board vote, school officials have met with Lippa to answer his questions and address his concerns.

The academy tentatively hired nearly 20 people locally and made plans to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in the area, according to school officials.

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 academy accepts teens ages 13-18; they normally attend for one year.

School officials had planned to hire at least 40 staff locally if it relocated, a figure that does not include 12 staff families that would have made the move to Virginia. The academy would have employed pastors, therapists, teachers, groundskeepers, technology personnel, and others.

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