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Halifax supervisors offer backing for backwoods STEM camp

SoVaNow.com / December 08, 2016


A California educator appeared before Halifax County supervisors Monday night to outline his plans to open a special school and summer camp in the Clover community at the site of the former Camp Staunton Meadows.

Supervisors gave their approval to a tax exempt bond issuance not to exceed $5 million for Guided Discoveries, Inc. following a public hearing on the matter.

The California-based company intends to purchase the 8144 Mt. Laurel Road site, which is now owned by Camp Motorsports. The money will be borrowed from the federal Public Finance Authority; the bond is not backed by or tied to county or taxpayer funding, although the local governing body must approve the request for financing.

Board approval came after Ross Turner, CEO and president of Guided Discoveries, explained how the money will be used to purchase and convert the former Camp Motorsports into a STEM camp for youngsters.

Turner told the supervisors that his company was founded in 1978 and operates two fee-based residential youth camps in California, one in Catalina Island Marine Institute at Toyon Bay off the southern coast of California, and the other, AstroCamp in Idyllwild, Calif.

The STEM programs there focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, coupled with an emphasis on character building. These programs help schools to meet state educational standards by offering special sessions for public school administrators. The California camps also provide students with an opportunity to participate in programs that cannot be duplicated in the traditional classroom.

These camps have the money available to secure the best equipment and to attract the best and highly trained teachers in their fields, Turner said.

Turner said the Halifax County school will be his first location on the East Coast, and he believes it will bring a unique opportunity to the community. He projects it will provide chances for college graduates who have received their degrees to work in incubator programs in their respective fields.

The school will offer two-three day sessions during the school year for students and teachers, and a full time summer program for students in the fourth through eighth grades.

He expects to draw campers from all across the state and neighboring areas.

The camp, he said, has dormitory space for up to 370 participants.

Turner noted that this community is located in a part of the country deemed as having “a dark skies designation” which would be attractive for his plans of the study of the stars and planets. Nearby Staunton River State Park is an International Dark Sky site.

The CEO said he expects to have a staff of between 50 and 55 people which could mean employment for some local residents.

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