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FRIDAY, MAY 4, 2007

Trustees to decide future of troubled military school

CAMP HILL (AP) — Two abuse scandals and steadily declining enrollment has compounded the financial woes at Lyman Ward Military Academy, but trustees have not made a decision to close the 109-year old school, President Chester Carroll said Thursday.

Carroll said he made a mistake in an April 27 letter he sent to school faculty expressing his "profound regret" that Lyman Ward would close May 31.

He said he has since sent out a new letter "reaffirming that the board of trustees has not yet made a decision" about the school's future and "closing is one option that they will consider."

The Opelika-Auburn News reported on Carroll's April letter in a story Thursday, pointing out that the school's Board of Trustees isn't scheduled to meet until May 19 when they will take an official vote.

"The letter was an internal letter to staff so that they wouldn't be caught flat-footed at a short period of time," Carroll said Thursday. "It was intended to alert the employees here so that they would have some options if the board of trustees decided to close it."

The all-boys boarding school, which costs about $17,000 annually to attend, has a current enrollment of 70 students. Carroll said the school needs 160 students to meet its budget and the academy, which teaches grades 6-12, is about $300,000 in debt.

Carroll said Lyman Ward's enrollment has been declining for a number of years and military schools across the country have seen a downturn since the Sept. 11 terror attacks left parents skittish about sending their sons to military school.

Walter Edward Myer, a former camp director at the academy, was captured in Costa Rica in Nov. 2005 after nearly 10 years as a fugitive accused of sexually abusing Lyman Ward cadets on weekends and holidays at his house.

Earlier in 2005 the school settled 13 lawsuits with parents of cadets who said they were hazed and severely assaulted at the academy from 2002 to 2004.

One 15-year-old said senior cadets came into his room, pinned him down and bored holes into his palm with an electric drill.

Those two-high profile abuse cases have "had some affect" on the school's current situation and have made recruiting difficult, Carroll said. He said the 60 employees on campus have taken pay cuts and campus activities have been scaled back to keep the doors open thus far.

"I'm confident the board of trustees will always act in the best interest of the school," he said. "They will consider closing, but they will do everything possible to keep it open."

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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