A federal trial over how many students Riverview Charter School can enroll was a disappointing expenditure in time and money, but at least the issue is settled for the next two years.
The school's enrollment can reach 494 students by the 2013-2014 school year. After that, the charter school and the Beaufort County School District will have to reach a new agreement on the charter school's enrollment. Both are on notice to be crystal clear about numbers going forward. There's no excuse for the issue ending up in court again.
For the 2012-13 school year, Riverview will be able to enroll 456 students, reaching 494 students by 2013-14, U.S. District Judge Sol Blatt Jr. ruled. It is no small thing that Blatt's decision was a directed verdict, showing the school district so unconvincingly made its case that the judge didn't send it to the jury, who had listened to testimony for more than two days.
The district had maintained the school was allowed to enroll up to 418 students in its first five years. The original agreement was for 380 students, but the school board agreed to allow Riverview to add a kindergarten and first-grade class its first year to help it meet federal minority student enrollment requirements. The more students enrolled in the school, the easier it would be to hit the targets.
The dispute centered on whether that was a one-time addition or enrollment the charter school could build on in subsequent years. Riverview officials maintained -- and the judge agreed -- that the school board had signed off on the subsequent higher enrollment figures when it reviewed Riverview's five-year budget and approved its charter in 2009.
In the end, this dispute was mostly about money. The charter school gets $8,800 per student, district officials say. Adding 114 more students for the 2012-13 school year means $1,003,200 for the charter school. Riverview's total budget for the year is projected to be $4,012,800.
The school's enrollment projection for the 2019-20 school year was 684 students. The district had offered -- in the course of trying to settle this case -- a cap of 513 students. Expect a new agreement to land somewhere in between.
Holding the school board to the numbers it approved in the five-year budget plan is fair. Requiring the district and the charter school to come to new terms at the end those five years also is fair.
Both sides should keep in mind the interests of the charter school and the district as a whole when it's time to set new enrollment figures. The enmity we have seen to date must go. So far, it's only wasted time and money.