An empty building near Keokuk will get new life as a boarding school. Economic-development director Lowell Junkins says Lee County’s old mental-health center has been standing empty. The property, built in the 60s, was a county home, and more recently houses physically and mentally challenged young people, but now they’ve been moved into group homes in the community. Junkins says there were few potential buyers for the building dubbed “Charleston Place” so it was a lucky match with the Litchfield Family company of Utah. The investors plan to make the old hospital into a boarding school, but Junkins says these are not drug users or offenders sent by the courts.He likens it to military schools years ago that had a reputation for handling kids who needed discipline and a strict environment, and he says these kids are sent by their own parents. Junkins says the average student will spend a year to fifteen months at the boarding school, which could open as early as next year. He says it’s planned in four wings, and renovation could begin early next year on the first wing, with students to come before the rest of the work proceeds. The school, which doesn’t have a name yet, would open with twenty or thirty students. Junkins says eventually it’ll grow to “upwards of 300” students over the next there years, and will mean some 200 jobs for people in Lee County. Supervisors will hold a public hearing on the sale of the old hospital December 23. The Utah company, which operates boarding schools across the country, has offered half a million dollars for the facility near Keokuk.
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