Riverview hopes to make Shell Point Elementary its permanent home

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comDecember 29, 2013 

  • In other news:

    • Riverview Charter School has elected a new board of directors for 2014: Reece Bertholf, Lamarr Cooler, Jaime Dailey-Vergara, Jennifer Drugge, Edward Foster, Cathy Hoogenboom and Evy Trask.
    • The board also elected Denise Jones to serve the remainder of a term of a recently vacated seat.

Riverview Charter School has tried since its opening in 2009 to find a permanent home, but to no avail.

That could change with negotiations with the Beaufort County School District to make Riverview's current spot in the former Shell Point Elementary School building its long-term home.

"It would very much be the school's preference that we could work with the school board to use Shell Point Elementary as a permanent home if we can come up with something that is mutually beneficial," Riverview director Alison Thomas said.

The charter school leases the elementary school from the district for $270,000 a year. The two-year lease began March 2012, and the school has the rights of first refusal to extend the lease.

However, Riverview hopes it can purchase the building from the district instead.

Riverview solicited an appraisal of the Shell Point property to determine its value, Thomas said at a Beaufort County school board finance committee meeting. That will provide a starting point to discuss a price for the school with the district.

Several attempts Thursday to reach Thomas to learn the results of the appraisal were unsuccessful.

The Riverview board also recently approved a study by an architectural firm to suggest ways the building could be renovated or expanded to accommodate the school's growing enrollment, Thomas said.

Riverview has just under 500 students in kindergarten through eighth grade and is expected to expand to a capacity of 684 students by 2019.

No offer on the property has been made, but Thomas has said Riverview intends to make one.

She said purchasing Shell Point would be mutually beneficial for Riverview and the district. It would allow the charter school to put down some roots and provide the district with some additional money for future projects around the county, she said.

Superintendent Jeffrey Moss said the district is open to looking at such a sale.

School board member Jim Beckert said he felt some special consideration needs to be given for Riverview since its charter is under Beaufort County schools. The district should try to provide easier access to facilities and give Riverview a good deal on the school, he said at the finance committee meeting.

School board member Geri Kinton, who helped found Riverview, agreed.

"We would be repurposing the school for our purpose," she said. "We would still be educating Beaufort County kids and students in that school."

When Riverview opened, it leased an old school building on Burroughs Avenue in Beaufort from the district. It has eyed several permanent spots since.

Developer Bob Turner offered to buy a parcel adjacent to his Habersham development from the school district, donate it to Riverview and help the school develop the property. However, the school board rejected that proposal in 2010 because officials at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort feared the site was within aircraft approach and departure corridors.

Then in 2011, the school board agreed to donate 7 acres off Old Salem and Burton Hill roads to Riverview. However, negotiations fell through in the summer of 2012, Thomas said.

The city of Beaufort also made overtures about putting Riverview in Beaufort Elementary School's building, considering a resolution endorsing that concept in 2011. That idea was quickly nixed by the district, which owns the building but was not included in a City Council workshop where the possibility was discussed with Riverview representatives.

The school hopes it will be successful this time, Thomas said, but will continue to evaluate other potential sites as a fail-safe.

"We are talking with the district about whether Shell Point is a long-term solution for us and what that means," Thomas said. "And if it's not, we will discuss where it is most beneficial for us to be."

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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