Private high school planned for former college site

Unanimous votes by the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors last month cleared the way for a private high school to operate on a former college campus.

The commissioners and supervisors approved a conditional use permit requested by Whitmell Investment Corp. to allow a private school and/or college on 38.2 acres in an agricultural district along Bermuda Orchard Lane, according to a staff report. The college that once occupied the property, Atlantic Baptist Bible College, stopped operating in

December 2008, Planning and Special Projects Manager Jane Peterson said. The college’s students completed their school year at another school, she said.

On Monday, Jim Theobald, the attorney representing the applicant, said Whitmell Investment Corp. would close on the purchase of the property this week.

“They’re going to have a high school for primarily international students,” he said. There could be approximately 200 students, he said. The school will be operated in conjunction with the University of Northern Virginia, which has a significant number of international students, he said.

The high school is “sort of designed for parents in foreign countries” who would ultimately like their children to attend college in the United States, he said. The school will house grades nine through 12 and offer a college prep curriculum, he said.

The students will not be allowed to have cars, Theobald said, and they will all “live there and be monitored.” School vans will take students to cultural events, shopping destinations, etc.

He said he was sure the school would need to rework some of the facilities and dorms, but “it really has been really nicely maintained by the current owner.” He isn’t sure when the high school will open, but he can’t imagine it being “ready to go” before next fall, he said.

The proposed use “certainly is consistent with the recommendations of the land use plan,” Peterson said. According to the staff report, approval was recommended because the operation of a college had been permitted on the property through conditional use approval since 1979 with no apparent adverse impacts on area properties.

“And, they’ve got conditions on the property … which continue to make it compatible with surrounding residential uses,” she said.

The previous occupant of the property was a good neighbor, Theobald said, and the proposed use should be, as well.

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