New Trade School Gets Green Light From Buckingham Planners

Published 4:27 pm Tuesday, June 23, 2015

County planning commissioners voted unanimously to approve and forward a special use permit request for a proposed 24-hour trade school to the board of supervisors Monday night.

The action followed a public hearing where only one person spoke.

The proposed Virginia Keys School of Technology would be located on 350 acres of property off of New Dominion Lane, according to county documents.

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Richard Kingswell, the property owner and president of Learning Independence & Necessary Knowledge, or LINK, has applied for a special use permit from the County to operate the for-profit school.

Bill Lay, the school’s program director, noted during the meeting that the school would offer both educational and trade skills for students age 14 to 18 and up to 21 based on the current state law. “Our target student is a foster care student that struggles through the normal day-to-day school environment,” he said.

He said the school’s students wouldn’t qualify for vocational programs in the county schools because they wouldn’t “be in school in time enough to hit the cut-off dates in the qualifying programs to get there.”

He said once the students complete their programs and graduate from their home school, they’ll be eligible to transfer their credits into a community college.

Lay said the Virginia Department of Education is very supportive of the school’s efforts, and that the school was looking into evening classes where home school students could enroll and take classes.

“Until recently, the … property was used as a RV/camping resort. The land itself is covered with trails, forest[s], and ponds. The property is already equipped for recreational uses, including basketball, baseball, hiking, mountain biking, and other outdoor activities,” according to the permit application.

According to the document, the property includes several buildings with a total of more than 25,000 square feet of space, which will be used as residential housing, classrooms and trade school workshops.

“The restaurant building will house the culinary arts program, dining hall, and the recreation room. The shop will be developed as vocational workshops for plumbing, electrical, and other building trades as the school grows,” states the document.

The buildings and recreational sites will also be improved and upgraded to fit growing needs as the school develops.

According to a school flier, “Virginia Keys is designed to teach and train students through a non-college track education program to be future workers who can obtain a living wage while working in their communities.”

The school seeks to enable students to gain a high school diploma while obtaining trade skills to a professional level in order for students to obtain credentials to present to future employers, notes the flier.

“I didn’t feel that [it] was able to reach its full potential,” Kingswell said of the former resort, which opened about two years ago, and offered camping, event venues, a restaurant, and catering services. Even though the property is still open for events and camping, Kingswell says he’s now focused on the proposed school.

During the May 26 planning commission meeting, Kingswell explained that he was seeking to start a trade school for children in “foster care or failing within the school system.”

Kingswell indicated that, in addition to trades, the school would offer math, English, geography and “whatever [else] they need to get through their high school diploma.”

Kingswell said the school would be co-educational, allowing both male and female students, and also noted the potential maximum number of students to be approximately 40.

According to the application, the Virginia Keys School of Technology plans to open in September with between four and eight students, employing four teachers and two administrators, along with facility and office personnel.

The permit request will go to the board of supervisors to be considered for final approval.