Beaufort News

Riverview deluged with 350 applications for fewer than 80 slots

Riverview Charter School received 350 applicants for the 41 to 79 openings expected next fall during last month's enrollment period, school director Alison Thomas said.

All but three of the 304 students who attended the school this year re-enrolled, she added.

"We feel it speaks volumes about our student and parent satisfaction," Thomas said, adding those who aren't returning are moving out of Beaufort County. "It's a really nice mid-year report card for our little school."

The high retention rate means nearly all of Riverview's openings this fall will be in the incoming kindergarten class, for which it received 120 applications.

It's unclear how many will be admitted, however.

The Beaufort County Board of Education and the Riverview board disagree on the amount the school's contract allows it to grow. The school board voted in November to limit the school's expansion to 38 additional students. But the Riverview board voted to admit an additional 76 kindergartners.

Thomas said discussions with the county school board are ongoing and she hopes the groups come to an agreement -- possibly a compromise -- soon.

How many new students Riverview is allowed to enroll will affect the method used to admit students.

Students are to be selected for charter schools by random lottery, according to state law, but Riverview likely will use a weighted lottery to ensure it meets minority enrollment targets from the federal Office for Civil Rights.

OCR said in 2009 that Riverview's enrollment did not comply with the county school district's 1970 desegregation agreement, requiring the percentage of white and black students in each school to approximate the district-wide percentage. To comply, Riverview must reduce its percentage of white students and increase the number of minority students it enrolls.

The school reduced white enrollment from 71 percent to 67 percent this school year, Thomas said. It must reduce that figure again next fall, probably to about 64 percent, but Thomas said she won't know the exact target until the district's minority enrollment is certified by the S.C. Department of Education.

About 35 percent of this year's applicants to Riverview are minorities, Thomas said.

That number was 37 percent last fall and 23 percent in 2009.

Thomas said the more students the school is allowed to enroll, the better chance it will have to increase diversity.