Beaufort News

Parents await word of children's Riverview enrollment status

Beaufort resident Kim Aughtman jumped from her seat Thursday at Riverview Charter School when the lottery number for her 5-year-old son, Ryder, was the first drawn for this fall's kindergarten class.

She hurried from the room to make calls to spread the word: "Ryder got in!"

About 30 parents continued to wait as Beaufort County School District human resources director Jackie Rosswurm pulled envelopes from a plastic bin. All numbers were put up on boards for kindergarten through seventh grade to determine which children got a coveted spot and where the rest ended up on the waiting list.

The school received more than 400 applications for 46 open seats at all grade levels of Beaufort County's first and only charter school, according to director Alison Thomas. About 295 students out of 303 re-enrolled.

The federal Office for Civil Rights, which in 2009 raised concerns that the school's enrollment procedure did not meet the county's 1970 desegregation agreement, approved this year's lottery at about 11 a.m. Thursday, Rosswurm said.

Riverview must decrease its percentage of white students and increase the number of black students over the next few years, according to OCR. This year's target is 15.7 percent black students.

The county Board of Education delayed the lottery originally scheduled for May 18 so it could be retooled to meet minority-enrollment goals. Among other changes, prospective students living in zip codes with greater minority populations and those raised by single parents were given extra lottery cards.

State law allows the school to grant automatic admission to siblings of students already enrolled at Riverview, children of staff members or children of the school's charter committee members.

Accepted students and the waiting list will be posted on the school's website within 48 hours. OCR told school officials to share minority-enrollment results as soon as possible, Rosswurm said.

Riverview is also in a dispute with the county Board of Education over how many students it can enroll.

In March, the school asked the Court of Common Pleas to clarify its contract so it can admit more students. By state law, charter schools are funded on a per pupil basis. Riverview's contract, amended several times since it opened in 2009, states it can only admit 342 students. Riverview officials want to raise that number to 380, mostly for kindergartners.

For Aughtman, the stress of waiting is over. And since Ryder will start as a preschooler, she can re-enroll him every year through seventh grade.

"I couldn't be more elated," Aughtman said. "I have heard nothing but good things about this school."