Program requests expansion

Published 2:01 pm Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Buckingham County Board of Supervisors voted to schedule a public hearing for potentially expanding the campus for Virginia Keys School located in the county.

The hearing will take place during the board’s May 14 meeting.

Bill Lay, director of community outreach with Virginia Keys School, which offers training for trades for students who are in the foster care system, addressed the board about a special use permit to renovate a property on 2010 High Rock Road, which has fallen into disrepair.

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Lay said school representatives would “utilize the house for bedrooms and two office spaces.” He also noted refurbishing the garage area to be used for a business space.

He said the renovated space would be used for short-term emergencies, including for children who are removed from their homes.

Lay said a recent program installed in Virginia allows foster students to remain in the system after their 18th birthdays with assistance to help the students reach independent living, job placement and continuing education.

“We’ve had four high school graduates in 2017,” Lay said about the Virginia Keys School program. “You guys have supported us years ago in doing this. Last year we had four high school graduates with kids that have had less than 60 percent chance of success, and one young man currently works in Farmville as a certified nursing assistant, two working in Richmond with HVAC programs.”

“We’re running a very successful business out there, and we’re helping young people. Once they transition away from our program, they do not re-enter social service. They are able to stay independent, on their own, which is a great benefit for the Commonwealth and for our communities,” Lay said.

“We’d like to move forward on this as much as possible,” Lay said about the project.

The facility acts as a day school and a residential area. He said approximately 80 percent of the students are from the foster system and approximately 20 percent from the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice (VDJJ).

He said the expansion could also help expand employment opportunities.

“We are a proud employer of Buckingham County currently with 28 staff on our payroll,” Lay said. “This property will allow us to pay three additional staff at that location.”

District Three Supervisor Don Matthews asked who the program serves.

“These young people who come into us are traumatized youth and most have been in the social services system anywhere from five to 12 years,” Lay said.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Rebecca Cobb said many of the conditions for the permit were carried over from the program’s existing permit. Cobb said some of the conditions were brought up due to concerns from adjacent landowners at the time the permit was issued about students potentially leaving the property and damaging or stealing neighboring property.

“There had been problems with that in the past with other schools in the area,” Cobb said.

“That condition was put in in order to satisfy one of our neighbors who during the previous administration did have his car stolen, and went off of the property,” Lay said. “We have had no issues with our neighbors and our residents at this point.” He said Sheriff William G. “Billy” Kidd had visited the property, but the issues were self-contained.