The Examiner

Boarding School Sought for Legion of Christ Property

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Mark Seman, president of EF International Academy, and Mount Pleasant Supervisor Joan Maybury.
Mark Seman, president of EF International Academy, and Mount Pleasant Supervisor Joan Maybury.

The Legion of Christ property in Thornwood could be back on the tax rolls by next year if a proposal unveiled last week receives approval.

EF International Academy has submitted an application to the Town of Mount Pleasant to open a boarding school for high school students that would attract pupils from across the United States and abroad. The proposal, discussed during a Sept. 17 Mount Pleasant Town Board work session, received an enthusiastic response from officials.

The roughly 265-acre Legion of Christ property, located off of Columbus Avenue, has been on the market for several months. The parcel is currently used as a training and conference center for the Roman Catholic religious order

John Kirkpatrick, an attorney representing EF International Academy, said a zoning text change approved by the town board would be required to allow a private for-profit school to be located and operating on the parcel before the planning board could entertain site plan review.

The parcel is located in an Office Business Education Conference (OBEC) zone. Prior to its use by the Legion, IBM held conferences and other functions at the site.

Since 2008, EF has operated a school at a site in Tarrytown, Kirkpatrick said. Aside from the Tarrytown campus, the academy has two schools in the United Kingdom and one in Canada. The Tarrytown site would continue to operate should the new location open in Thornwood.

If the applicant gains the necessary town approvals, the boarding school could open as soon as September 2014, Kirkpatrick said.

EF President Mark Seman said the company, founded in 1965, offers educational programs internationally. The school would provide instruction for local residents and youths from throughout the world, he said. Students would be working toward receiving prestigious International Baccalaureate diplomas, Seman added.

Internal renovations would be the only work needed, Seman said. The main renovations would be to convert office space to dormitories and classrooms. There would be no construction of new buildings on the site, he said.

Seman said EF students living on the Tarrytown campus donate their time to various volunteer projects and would also do so in Thornwood.

“Our students are happy to get involved,” he said.

There would be about 800 students and 100 employees on the Thornwood campus. The Tarrytown school has about 1,400 students.

Representatives of EF International Academy said there’s a conditional agreement that the land purchase from the Legion is predicated on the school obtaining the necessary approvals.

The school would have a 25-member security staff at all times, said Dr. Brian Mahoney, headmaster of the Tarrytown school, responding to an inquiry regarding security from Councilman Peter DeMilio

The town board expressed initial support for the idea.

“I think it can be a wonderful project,” Supervisor Joan Maybury said.

Maybury said she would work to devise language for the zoning text changes. The board could send the proposed revisions to the planning board for its comments as early as this week, she said.



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