Riverview argues school district changed 'the rules of the game' in enrollment dispute

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comJanuary 30, 2012 

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CHARLESTON -- The enrollment dispute between Riverview Charter School and the Beaufort County School District is a case of "David and Goliath," Riverview's attorney Alice Paylor told a jury Monday.

The school district, which Paylor called Goliath, has broken its contract with Riverview, she said during the trial, which opened Monday in Charleston.

"When you enter into an agreement, you honor it," she said. " ... You don't change the rules of the game."

The lawsuit, filed by Riverview in April, seeks to clarify the terms of the school's contract, which has been amended several times since it was conditionally approved in 2008. At the center of the dispute is the number of students the school could enroll for this school year.

Riverview Charter School officials say they should have been allowed to enroll 380 students because the school board approved a third kindergarten and first-grade class before the school opened in August 2009. But the school board voted in 2010 to cap enrollment at 342 students for this school year.

Riverview director Alison Thomas testified that district staff and the county school board had reviewed Riverview's proposed five-year budget, which included the extra kindergarten and first-grade classes, several times between January 2009 and July 2009. The school board granted final approval to Riverview's charter in July 2009.

"When we enrolled (additional students), we intended to keep them," Thomas said.

That approval cemented the contract with the school district, Riverview contends.

But district lawyer Ken Childs said the school board never agreed to the higher enrollment figures, including Riverview's projected enrollment of 684 students for the 2019-20 school year.

More students would mean more money for the school, Paylor said. Riverview receives roughly $9,000 per student from the district.

Current and former Riverview board members testified the school would be more likely to meet federal diversity requirements if it could enroll more students.

The trial is scheduled to resume this morning, with several district officials to testify on the district's behalf.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Riverview, school district headed to court over enrollment dispute; Jan. 25, 2012
  2. Riverview, school district urged to reach agreement over enrollment lawsuit; Dec. 2, 2011
  3. Riverview sues school district over enrollment dispute; April 5, 2011

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