Riverview Charter School now has a permanent home -- the former Shell Point Elementary School it has held classes in for the past two years.
Unlike in previous years, however, the charter school no longer will pay rent to the Beaufort County School District for the building.
After months of negotiations and several rejected proposals, Riverview and the Beaufort County Board of Education reached an agreement Thursday that not only allows the school to stay in the building for 30 years, but also helps finance expansions to the structure.
"Now, five years since opening, it's exciting that we have a home for the next 30 years, and there is a sense of permanence and security," Riverview director Alison Thomas said. "This version of the lease really reflects that the school district sees Riverview students as their students, because they are."
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Starting in July, Riverview will no longer make $270,000 annual rent payments -- some of which covered routine maintenance, but a majority of which went back into the district.
The charter school still will pay the district every year until the 30-year agreement expires, an annual amount of $591,000. That money will go to three things:
The fund works like a line of credit, district head of finance Phyllis White said. Should Riverview need to complete a large project but not have the money to cover it, the district will front the cost and debit it from the fund. But once a $4 million maximum is reached, any project costs will have to be paid by Riverview.
The Beaufort County school board gave Riverview two options. The second included an annual payment of $633,551 -- with the difference going toward building a larger capital project fund.
"With budget constraints, we chose the lower payment option because the district is very good at knowing what projects its buildings will need, and we feel comfortable that $4 million will be sufficient," Riverview board member Joseph Dunkle said Thursday, after the school's board unanimously approved the agreement.
"This means we can put more money back into the classrooms for our students," he added.
The agreement is contingent on the district and charter school drafting a work letter that outlines how the two will work together to complete the renovations.
School district chairman Bill Evans said Thursday he's happy to finally reach an agreement and to be able to continue working with the charter school.
The two boards met last month to discuss what has been a rocky relationship, and members said they hoped to put that behind them. Evans said he thinks this is a step in the right direction.
"We are happy to help them cover some costs up front, and we felt that if they truly were going to be a part of the district and be one of our schools, then they didn't need to have rent anymore," he said. "We want to make sure our costs are covered, but we didn't need to be making any money off this agreement."
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- Riverview nears agreement with school district for Shell Point property, August 24, 2014
- Riverview, school district hope to put tension behind them, September 30, 2014
- Riverview school hopes to make Shell Point permanent home, April 29, 2014
- Report: SC charter schools have inadequate access to facilities, amenities, November 17, 2013