Riverview Charter School has decided to lease Shell Point Elementary, but changes to its agreement with the Beaufort County School District will have to be approved by the Board of Education first.
Riverview's board approved the two-year lease on a 7-0 vote at its meeting Monday, director Alison Thomas said. Two board members -- Ed Foster and Shelley Kolb -- were absent.
The charter school board made one major change -- it deleted proposed "occupancy caps" inserted by the Board of Education that would have limited the school's enrollment to 456 students next school year and 494 students in 2013-14.
Those numbers are in line with a recent court ruling in an enrollment dispute between Riverview and the district.
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But, Thomas said, the caps also dictated that the school could not have more than three classes per grade level, grades kindergarten through eighth.
That's the same language found in an amendment to Riverview's charter the board of education approved last week. Riverview's board has yet to vote on that amendment.
Thomas said the school had planned to expand to four sections of kindergarten and first grade next year. If they were stopped from doing that, class sections would have to be added at higher grades for the school to grow to 456 students.
"Instead of drawing (students) in at the bottom, we'd be pulling them in mid-stream," Thomas said.
The school's largest applicant pool -- both historically and in this academic year -- is kindergarten students.
Thomas said that of 671 applicants for the next school year, about 170 would be kindergartners. Also, the applicant pool of first-graders is the most diverse, at about 46 percent white, Thomas said.
Courtney Smith, the Riverview board's communications chairwoman, thinks the caps were an attempt to limit the school's enrollment in later years.
"We are simply wishing to be afforded the opportunity to put (the judge's) ruling into practice and enroll 456 students in whichever grade level is best for the students and the families we serve," Smith said.
An attempt Tuesday to reach school board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. was unsuccessful.
Smith said the lease was for about $270,000 per year.
Currently, the school pays the district about $184,000 for facilities on Burroughs Avenue, plus $90,000 for several mobile units each year, Thomas said.
The Riverview board also added a clause in the proposed Shell Point lease that would allow mobile units to be added if needed. Thomas said she's confident the Shell Point school could handle Riverview's proposed enrollment of 494 in 2013-14.
Shell Point is about three times larger than Riverview's current space with twice as many classrooms and more common space, including a gym, media center and larger cafeteria. Smith said if the enrollment caps became a sticking point, Riverview can stay in the Burroughs Avenue school for at least one more year.
Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.