Riverview Charter School is reporting its largest and most diverse pool of applicants yet for the coming school year.
In addition to its current 342 students, the Beaufort school says 671 have applied for next school year. That's about 300 more than applied last year.
The school can enroll up to 456 students next year, meaning at most there will be only 114 new spots.
The applicant pool also has grown more diverse.
This year it's about 26 percent black -- up from 22 percent in 2011, according to Riverview figures. The percentage of white applicants has dropped from 62 percent in 2011 to 56 percent this year.
Riverview has struggled to reach the requirements of the Beaufort County School District's desegregation agreement with the federal Office for Civil Rights. To comply, the school must increase its number of black students and decrease its number of white students.
Riverview officials say it is difficult to pinpoint the reason for the application growth. Many of their recruitment efforts have been about the same as in years past, director Alison Thomas said.
The school distributed applications to local preschools and libraries, sent letters to pastors at black churches in northern Beaufort County and placed several ads in local media.
The school also hosted an open house, tours and an enrollment fair at the Lowcountry Store on St. Helena Island.
Thomas said the school has made some minor adjustments, which might be boosting results. It has made testimonials from teachers and students more prominent on its website and encouraged more participation in the Beaufort Christmas parade, where families handed out about 3,000 fliers last year -- twice the amount distributed in 2010.
Both Thomas and Courtney Smith, Riverview's board communications chairwoman, said word of mouth also has helped.
"More and more families are hearing about Riverview from those of us who have children there. Our families are our greatest advocates," Smith said. "I don't know if anything we did could ever replace that."
The school's board will decide in the coming weeks if it wants to expand to 456 students next year. Thomas said there are some logistical concerns, such as space, that could limit the number of students.
The board hopes to schedule a lottery for the open seats in spring, Smith said.
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- Judge rules in favor of Riverview in Beaufort County enrollment dispute; Feb. 1, 2012
- School board delays vote on Riverview recruitment plan; Jan. 17, 2012
- Riverview deluged with 350 applications for fewer than 80 slots; Feb. 11, 2011
- School board directs Riverview to boost minority enrollment; April 19, 2011