Chesterfield County is opening a high school designed to help students struggling with addiction

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Posted at 9:56 AM, Aug 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-03 10:55:11-04

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. -- A new Chesterfield County school will open its doors this month. The Chesterfield Recovery Academy (CRA), based at the county's Career and Technical Center on Hull Street Road, is designed to help high school students living with drug addiction.

Classes are scheduled to start on Aug. 22 and officials said the first group will consist of up to 25 students, with the ability to expand to 50.

Students can come from any of the school districts within Region 1 and Chesterfield County Public Schools (CCPS) Superintendent Dr. Merv Daugherty said they have reached out to all CCPS high school principals and superintendents of the other districts to let them know enrollment is open.

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"We can teach any program, any course that you're offered in the state," said Daugherty.

To qualify, students have to have been clean from drugs for at least 30 days and gone through some sort of treatment program.

Daugherty said the concept of a recovery high school has long been a passion of his and was working on one in Delaware before taking the job with CCPS.

"We've been very blessed and there's a lot of people to thank," added Daugherty. "This is just step one in the journey. We really are going to start working hard now to make sure our students are successful, get them in here, let them see they can be successful academically, they can be successful at a job, and that's our goal."

Among those who worked to make it a reality was former CCPS School Board member and current state delegate Carrie Coyner.

"It's really easy to say it's people not like my kids or not like my spouse or not like my neighbor, but it really is," said Del. Coyner (R - 62nd District), who spoke of visits to Chesterfield's jail and speaking with those suffering from addiction, including former classmates, and their journey. "Almost every person suffering from the disease of addiction will tell you something happened in middle school or high school and they wish someone had noticed or intervened or they wished they could have had more help."

Leading the efforts at the school itself will be Justin Savoy, who said he worked in the mental health and substance abuse field before becoming a teacher.

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Savoy said his goal is to get kids back on track.

"It's not to treat you different, it's not to say you're different than everybody else, or the stigma. It's basically to help you get back to who you were before," said Savoy.

Savoy said all of the students, regardless of grade level, will learn in the same room and have the same hours as a regular school.

"And then they'll have time to work on individual or group counseling. So, it'll be a mixture between, like, outpatient therapy and a traditional school," added Savoy.

Justin Savoy

Savoy said they will also provide career and internship guidance to students and said each student's stay will differ, depending on their academics and recovery, with some returning to their original school, while others could finish their high school education at CRA.

School officials said they hoped to serve as a model for others to replicate in Virginia and across the country. Daugherty said if they can save even just one child, it will be worth it.

"Our goal is to make sure they know people care about them and we want them to be successful and to remember, just because you make a mistake, doesn't end your dreams," said Daugherty.

Families interested in enrolling in the school can find the form to do so here.

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