District should be part of school site discussion

Converting space at Beaufort Elementary School into a permanent home for Riverview Charter School might be a good idea.

But the discussion between Riverview representatives and Beaufort City Council at its meeting last week was as graceless as two children gabbing about how they'll spend their inheritance while Mom and Dad sit across the table in perfectly good health.

In fact, the Beaufort County School District, which owns the building and determines its use, wasn't even invited to the table.

Such presumptuousness is difficult to explain and could hurt the idea's prospects before plans are fully formed -- although the presence of Riverview's architect at the meeting suggests planning might be further along than most realize.

"We were just completely blind-sided, even shocked, that a suggestion like that would be made," school district spokesman Jesse Washington said.

Riverview is temporarily in a building it leases from the school district on Burroughs Avenue. The school is looking for a permanent location, but its preferred site in Burton was panned by the Board of Education and Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort because of its proximity to flight paths.

Last year, the school board voted instead to recommend downtown Beaufort as the permanent site for Riverview. Beaufort City Council members endorsed the decision -- Mayor Billy Keyserling has been particularly enthusiastic -- and helped the school identify and research potential sites.

Council members said last week they will vote this month on a resolution endorsing Riverview's use of the Beaufort Elementary building.

Properly directed, the city's enthusiasm could benefit all involved. The downtown or Northwest Quadrant areas could wind up with an innovative school that attracts new residents and is compatible with the walkable communities that are the aim of its redevelopment efforts. Riverview could have a strong partner and the permanent site it desires.

Further, the school district's endorsement of a downtown location for Riverview suggests it would at least entertain a pitch from the city about using Beaufort Elementary, particularly if the city were to pay for renovations there. But for the city to lock into that option now is to go too far, too fast.

City Council should take no votes on this matter until the district has weighed in on the idea.