Permanent site for Riverview Charter approved by school board; will be sent to OCR

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comDecember 13, 2011 

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Riverview Charter School hopes it has found a spot to put down roots.

A proposal for a permanent location for the school, which opened in 2009, was approved Tuesday by the Beaufort County Board of Education.

Under the proposal, the school will be located on a 7-acre lot off Old Salem and Burton Hill roads.

The land, which is part of a larger undeveloped parcel, would be donated to the school.

Before Riverview can move forward, the plans must be approved by the federal Office for Civil Rights. The school must then launch a capital fundraising campaign and design the building,

An agreement with OCR requires Riverview's permanent location to "further the complete desegregation of the district's schools."

Riverview had to consider the racial composition of communities surrounding the site and nearby schools, any foreseeable segregative effects on existing schools and any natural boundaries that could limit access.

With those goals in minds, the school board recommended in April 2010 that Riverview be located "in the area of the city of Beaufort."

At that time Riverview presented three options to the school board:

  • Shell Point Farms off S.C. 802 near Shell Point Elementary School

  • redevelopment of an undetermined spot in downtown Beaufort

  • a 19.5-acre parcel on Still Shadow Drive adjacent to the Habersham community and owned by the school district

  • Riverview officials said then the land on Still Shadow Drive was their first choice. However, officials at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort objected to that site, saying that noise might be a problem because the land was within the approach and departure corridors.

    Since the school board's April 2010 vote, Riverview has been searching for locations within the city, Riverview director Alison Thomas said.

    The school has been temporarily located on Burroughs Avenue since its opening. Riverview leases that facility from the school district, and will likely need to extend that lease another school year until 2013, Thomas said.

    Riverview outgrew that facility this year and had to add six classrooms in three portable buildings in order to accommodate its 342 students.

    In searching for a site for a permanent facility, the school hoped to have enough space to offer outdoor classrooms and for students to grow some of their own food, Thomas said.

    The Old Salem Road site provides that space. Since the land will be donated, it also fits within the school's fiscal constraints, she said.

    "It's a great opportunity for experiential learning, especially with potential access to the marsh," Thomas said. "It's also easily accessible in terms of traffic patterns. ... Plus it's seven acres in the city of Beaufort, which in and of itself, is difficult to find."

    The location was approved by a 8-2 school board vote. Board members Steven Morello and Herbert Burnes voted against the motion. Board member Ronald Speaks was absent due to the death of his wife.

    Neither Morello nor Burnes said they objected to the location of the school. They voted against the motion for other reasons.

    Morello said he voted nay because the school has not met diversity targets set by OCR for both staff and students.

    Burnes said he voted against the motion because he wanted to see more detail in Riverview's plans and proposal. He also said his feeling that the district and charter school are often at odds factored into his decision.

    Thomas said the school will be built in phases. Eventually, it will need to accommodate the 684 students in kindergarten through eighth grade allowed by the school's charter. The school isn't slated to reach that capacity until 2019.

    Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

    Related content

    1. Downtown Beaufort site recommended for Riverview Charter School; April 6, 2010
    2. Riverview hopes to find a way to place school near Habersham; April 9, 2010
    3. Riverview tries to proceed with school plans while awaiting OCR input; Aug. 9, 2010
    4. Beaufort Elementary emerges as possible Riverview Charter site; April 12, 2011
    5. School officials: We have no plans to leave Beaufort Elementary School building; April 13, 2011
    6. Beaufort officials: We support a downtown site for Riverview Charter School; June 15, 2010

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