Beaufort News

City Council tables resolution endorsing Riverview move to Beaufort Elementary site

Beaufort County Board of Education Chairman Fred Washington speaks with members of Beaufort City Council on Tuesday evening at City Hall.
Beaufort County Board of Education Chairman Fred Washington speaks with members of Beaufort City Council on Tuesday evening at City Hall. Jonathan Dyer/The Beaufort Gazette

  • After much contention and criticism of how it handled the issue, Beaufort City Council has set aside a resolution endorsing the Beaufort Elementary School facility near Bay Street as the preferred site for Riverview Charter School's permanent home.
  • Three weeks ago, council met with Riverview officials in a public workshop to discuss the pending resolution but did not invite Beaufort County School District or Beaufort Elementary School representatives to participate, shocking and angering both the district and elementary school.

    "There's no excuses for the lack of communication that's developed other than to say we wear a lot of hats," Councilman Mike Sutton said. "I continue to be somewhat frustrated with the process or disconnect between local governments and schools and how that affects the lifeblood or vibrancy of a city."

    Mayor Billy Keyserling said he didn't anticipate council would move forward with the resolution "in the foreseeable future" and said he would instead talk with Fred Washington, chairman of the board of education, about a plan to move forward as Riverview looks for a permanent home.

    There were more than 60 people at Tuesday's meeting, including Superintendent Valerie Truesdale and Washington, who represents most of Beaufort on the board.

    "I'm just trying to deal with my personal disappointment," Washington said of the lack of communication. "I realize that no matter what you do, the decision is the school board's."

    School board member Bill Evans requested that council table the resolution for now and restart the conversation.

    Beaufort Elementary parents and teachers also spoke during the meeting Tuesday, many imploring officials to consider the existing community at Beaufort Elementary and do what's in the best interest of the children.

    Riverview is temporarily located on Burroughs Avenue in a building it leases from the school district. This fall, it plans to also lease from Beaufort County land beside the building that will house six portable classrooms to alleviate anticipated overcrowding.

    Riverview now serves 304 students but is seeking a permanent facility large enough to hold the 684 students in kindergarten through eighth grade it expects to eventually enroll. The school's charter allows it to expand annually during the next several years.

    The board of education voted last year to recommend "the area of Beaufort" as the permanent site for Riverview after reviewing three possible locations, Washington said. City Council members endorsed the concept of a downtown location and helped the school identify and research potential sites.

    Mallory Baches, Riverview's facilities chair, read from a prepared statement Tuesday thanking the city for its continued input and asking that representatives of the school district, Riverview and City Council meet to discuss lingering questions about a list of eight potential sites the city compiled. Among those questions are:

  • Would the school district entertain the city's preference for Beaufort Elementary?
  • Are there short-term solutions for shared facility use?
  • Could the city's preference for Beaufort Elementary allow a positive impact on both Riverview's and the school district's budgets?
  • What challenges and opportunities exist for the other seven sites Beaufort studied?
  • "The questions, and their answers, are pressing if any of the city's reviewed downtown locations for Riverview are to be considered truly available for our school," Baches said.

    Beaufort Elementary houses about 600 students and expects to grow to 650-700 this fall, principal Jennifer Morillo said.

    The building has a capacity of about 900.

    Morillo, who asked council members last week to work with those who already call the facility home, said the school doesn't "waste a good crisis."

    "Out of this crisis has come a great opportunity to collaborate with the city," Morillo said. "Unfortunately it took us being reactive rather than proactive."