Gracie Hart Brooks Editor-in-Chief

Supervisors have approved an amendment to an existing Special Use Permit (SUP) to expand the school at Good Hope Baptist Church.

Last week, a joint public hearing was held by the planning commission and the board of supervisors into a request by the Good Hope Baptist Church to expand its school. Currently, the church operates a preschool in its sanctuary, but would like to expand to serve other ages and grades. The preschool is operated under an SUP that was approved in June 2014. The expansion, named Aryeh Christian Academy, would consist of a new 12,000 square foot school building and a 9,120 square foot gymnasium on 3.9 acres zoned A-1 Agriculture. At full construction, the school would accommodate 200 students through grade 12 with 15 staff and faculty members. VDOT recommended a commercial entrance on Beautiful Run Road.

Kindergarten principal Jill Garth said the project is likely to be phased and not reach its peak of 200 pupils in the first year.

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However, some residents have expressed concerns about the project.

Sharon Gregory, who lives opposite the property, said she was concerned about traffic and couldn’t believe VDOT said everything would be fine. She said the road is narrow and the ditches are often empty. She also said that private schools take funds from public schools. Also, she says, private schools don’t pay taxes.

“We bought there to peacefully enjoy our property,” Gregory said. “It will have an impact on that.”

Larry Dodson agreed, saying the road just wasn’t wide enough.

Others spoke in favor of the school.

Mike Sharman of Novum said he is grateful that a church body wants to educate children, not just in subjects, but in God. He said the school would not have the suspected impact and said what cannot be recovered is the loss of childhood.

“This school wouldn’t have 10 or 20 students if people were happy with the public schools in Madison County,” Sharman said. “The success rates are catastrophic.”

Pastor Jeff Tucker also spoke out in favor of the school.

“I applaud Good Hope’s efforts to expand educational opportunities,” he said. “Ms. Garth and her team have a proven track record and deserve the opportunity to fill that need.

Karen Peyton is the mother of a 3 year old student at Good Hope. She said she couldn’t be happier with the love, care and attention her child is receiving.

“They created a very special program in Madison,” Peyton said.

The planning commissioners agreed.

Commissioner Pete Elliott thanked Garth for his work in presenting the application. She had previously provided each commissioner with a comprehensive binder containing information about the project. He also said he didn’t think the school would cause a traffic problem. Commissioner Daniel Crigler, who lives on Good Hope Church Road, said he had not seen an increase in traffic from the existing nursery school.

Elliott made a motion recommending approval of the SUP expansion which was seconded by Crigler and approved 8-0. Peter Work abstained. Supervisors approved the bid 5-0.

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