10/03/13 4:33pm
10/03/2013 4:33 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Charter School students at Thursday's groundbreaking ceremony.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Charter School students at Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

The Riverhead Charter School held a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday to celebrate the start of its $14.1 million construction project that will accommodate the school’s increasing enrollment.

Charter school principal and executive director Raymond Ankrum gathered with hundreds of students wearing yellow hard hats at the school on Route 25 in Calverton and explained how the new building has been “years in the making.”

“Finally, it’s happening,” he said. “It’s an exciting time for our students and employees. We’re on the verge of big things.”

The 50,000-square foot project is expected to include a two-story building with new classrooms and space for an auditorium, gymnasium, library, administration offices and a kitchen. The design features will include a grand main entrance atrium and a large bay window that will act as a reading area in the front of the building.

Outside, there will be a general grass play area with landscaping, including tree plantings and standing ornamental lampposts.

A new bus loop, parking lot and drainage system will also be constructed.

The school will also get its first gymnasium, and a 150-seat portable bleacher.

Officials said the state Board of Regents approved the charter school’s request in March to expand its program through eighth grade, making it the only K-8 charter school in Suffolk County. The school was established in 2001 as a K-6 program and currently has students enrolled from about 14 local districts.

About a month after the state’s approval, the charter school held a lottery to fill open positions in the school’s kindergarten and grades 1, 2, and 6 programs. Mr. Ankrum had said the lottery was the first of its kind at the school, which saw more applications before the deadline this year than ever before.

Normally, the school will put students on a waiting list if they apply after the April 1 deadline, but this year the school received more applicants before the deadline than they had spots to fill.

Officials said the new facility will be able to accommodate about 500 students, up from its current capacity of 300.

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Mr. Ankrum also gathered with representatives involved with the project, including BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers of Patchogue. The company is also involved with capital improvement projects in the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts.

Representatives from Stalco Construction of Islandia; the project’s general contractor, SCC Construction Management Group of Hauppauge; the project’s construction manager, DeLuxe Building Systems of Berwick, Penn.; and PW Grosser Consulting, also attended the event.

The project, which will be paid for through a bond, is expected to be completed next winter.

jennifer@timesreview.com

06/15/13 4:52pm

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Fifth Grader Daniel Arias reads his essay at the Juneteenth Day picnic held in Ludlam Park in Riverside Saturday afternoon.

The theme of the annual essay writing contest for Pulaski Street School fifth graders is remembering our nation’s struggle with slavery and the reason why it took two and a half years for the slaves of Texas to learn of the Emancipation Proclamation to gain their freedom.

The Juneteenth Day celebration is named for the June 19 state holiday which commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery in Texas.

The event, now in its 11th year, is sponsored by the East End Voters Coalition and coordinated by retired school teacher Maryanne Harroun. The students, who study the Civil War as part of their American history curriculum, have to follow a particular writing format, with a certain number of words, and write the essay in the first person as a diary entry as if they were a slave. This year, 120 essays were submitted.

Ultimately, Juneteenth Day is a celebration of freedom. The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on September 22, 1862 but some slaves in the Confederate states didn’t learn about it until June, 1865.

On June 19, 1865 a Union general announced that “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, that all slaves are free.” Ms. Harroun asked the students to describe in their essays their reaction to that news and what it means for them to grow up free.

The essay contest winners are Angelina Casado, 11, Daniel Arias, 10, and Nadia Rebentisch, 11. Ms. Casado ended her essay with this sentiment, “I smile and know I will now grow up free.” The three winners were given a certificate of appreciation and $50 by EEVC co-chairman Robert ‘Bubbie’ Brown and Larry Williams at a picnic held in Ludlam Park in Riverside Saturday afternoon.

The special guest speaker was Riverhead Charter School executive director Raymond Ankrum. In his remarks he said, “In 2013 we have made a lot of progress, but we still have more to do. We need to focus on  how important education is. This holiday is so powerful it deserves the attention of all.”

04/21/13 6:00pm
04/21/2013 6:00 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | (L-R) Melanie Leathers and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Melanie Leathers (left) and her sister Vanessa Wigington moments after the charter school lottery ended.

Vanessa Wigington leaned forward in her chair as the man at the front of the room continued to pull slips of paper from the bowl in front of him. There were just twelve charter school kindergarten spaces available now. Her 4-year-old son James would have to get in. He had to.

“Number 36,” the man said, “James -”

Ms. Wigington’s eyes widened.

“-Marlules,” he finished.

She sank back into her chair. The wrong James. Not her son, who suffers from hearing loss and could benefit from the charter school’s smaller class sizes.

Ms. Wigington turned to her sister in the chair next to her and mouthed, “I’m going to throw up.”

The Riverhead Charter School held a lottery at the Riverhead Free Library Wednesday evening to fill open positions in the school’s kindergarten, grade 1, 2, and 6 programs.

Charter school executive director Raymond Ankrum said the lottery was the first of its kind at the school, which saw more applications before the deadline this year than ever before.

Normally, the school will put students on a waiting list if they apply after the April 1 deadline, but this year the school received more applicants before the deadline than they had spots to fill, he said.

“For us to have that many applicants, it’s pretty good,” Mr. Ankrum said.

Students who had siblings in the school or were from Riverhead were given preference, then out of town students were called. The dozen or so students who didn’t get in will be placed on a waiting list based on the date of their application, school officials said.

Some parents smiled as their child’s name was called, others whispered a quiet “yes” in celebration. Some high-fived their kids fidgeting in the chairs next to them.

The basement meeting room where the lottery was held was mostly empty; parents who did not attend the lottery will be notified if the child made it into the school or not.

Steve and Shirley Burgess of Middle Island were at the lottery with their three grandchildren, whom they care for. The oldest, 6-year-old Vitali, was placed on a waiting list for first grade, while his younger sister, Amya, was accepted into the kindergarten program.

Ms. Burgess said the family isn’t happy with the quality of Vitali’s education, and were hopeful he would get into the charter school off the wait list.

“That’s all we can ask for right now,” she said.

About 6:45 p.m., the man pulling the names from the bowl, auditor Elliatt Di Lieto, made the announcement for the kindergarten applicants.

“There’s three more seats left,” he said.

In her seat, Ms. Wigington was perfectly still. Her sister, Melanie Leathers, held her hands over her mouth. Another name called, not her son. Two spots left, and three student’s names left in the bowl. The last student called wouldn’t get in and would have to be placed on the waiting list.

Mr. Dilieto pulled a yellow slip from the bowl and read the name.

“Number 46,” he said. “James Wigington.”

Ms. Wigington threw her hands into the air, her face frozen in shock, and her sister clapped and started laughing. The two hugged, and Ms. Wigington sighed. After the lottery, she couldn’t stop smiling.

“I was freaking out,” she said. “I was just nervous it wasn’t going [to happen]. I was thinking of how much I would have to pay for a private school.”

James is now a student at Cleary School for the Deaf in Nesconset. He’ll join his cousin, Ms. Leathers’ daughter, at the Charter School this year. Because he’s enrolled, his 2-year-old sister will get preference when it’s her turn to join the school two years from now.

“Just complete relief and excitement,” Ms. Wigington said. “I’m very excited.”

psquire@timesreview.com