Riverview Charter could lease Shell Point Elementary

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comFebruary 10, 2012 

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The Shell Point Elementary School building, slated for closure, could house classes this fall, after all.

Riverview Charter School is trying to negotiate a lease with the Beaufort County School District.

The state's charter school law gives Riverview right of first refusal on any empty buildings the district owns, according to district spokesman Jim Foster.

Riverview leases its current building on Burroughs Avenue from the district for about $184,000 a year, Riverview director Alison Thomas said.

But the school is outgrowing that space. This year, it had to use portable classrooms. Squeezing 456 students into the school -- the maximum the school is allowed to enroll in 2012-13 -- would likely mean adding another portable classroom and making some instructors, such as art teachers, mobile rather than giving them their own classroom, Riverview board chairman Mike Freeman said.

Negotiations on a lease began in late fall, Thomas said.

Shell Point -- at about 67,770 square feet -- is almost three times the size of Riverview's current space, Thomas said.

Foster said the school's capacity is about 453 students.

Moving to Shell Point would give the school a media center, a gym and a kitchen -- amenities not available at their current location.

All that means additional cost, however. The Riverview board also has to consider moving costs and additional busing costs, Thomas said.

"I think there are pros and cons, and that's what the board has been weighing," she said.

Any lease would be short-term, Thomas said. The school hopes to build a permanent home on a 7-acre lot off Old Salem and Burton Hill roads, pending Office for Civil Rights approval.

Beaufort County school board chairman Fred Washington, Jr. said leasing the building to Riverview is in line with his goals. He said he wants to keep the building in case the district needs to use it in the future. That way, money wouldn't be spent to build something new.

Freeman said Riverview hopes to move ahead with enrollment plans for next school year, and the board will need to make a decision soon about which building it will use.

Foster said the district hopes to have an agreement with Riverview -- if one is to be had -- by the end of the month. OCR would have to approve the move.

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Permanent site for Riverview Charter approved by school board; will be sent to OCR; Dec. 13, 2011
  2. OCR approves Shell Point closure, fifth-grade move to Robert Smalls; Feb. 7, 2012
  3. School board votes to close Shell Point Elementary next year; Aug. 15, 2011

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