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Riverhead Charter School looks to educate ninth and tenth grade students downtown

The Riverhead Charter School has announced expansion plans that would include offering ninth and tenth grade classes within the next four years.

The school, which currently serves students in grades K-8, would host the high school-aged students in a separate building, Charter School principal and executive director Raymond Ankrum told the Riverhead Board of Education Tuesday night.

He added that the charter school would only offer the high school program to students who completed earlier grades at the school. Students attending classes in other districts wouldn’t be eligible to attend the higher grades at the charter school.

“We want to be able to keep the students throughout their education,” Mr. Ankrum said. “Since we get them in kindergarten, we want to have the opportunity to expand and keep them from middle school to high school.”

Mr. Ankrum described the growth as an “organic concept,” meaning the charter school would add ninth grade classes in 2021 and tenth grade offerings in 2022.

Mr. Ankrum said a new school building would be sought for the high school students. The current structure, which includes a new $14.1 million facility build in January 2015 and the historic, original building, do not have enough room to accommodate the increase.

He said the district is looking at numerous options, some which include placing the secondary school in downtown Riverhead, but nothing has been decided yet.

Riverhead Board of Education member Laurie Downs said she supports the Charter School’s expansion, but not necessarily the idea of a downtown location.

“I have no concerns with the Charter School and I never have all these years,” Ms. Downs said. “However, Main Street does bother me a little bit. Just the fact that we have such issues on Main Street when it comes to parking and there’s a lot of different things going on on Main Street. So I’m a little concerned about that.”

Board vice president Susan Koukounas said she hopes the charter school will be able to offer specialty programs unavailable at area public schools, something she said other charter schools do.

This expansion comes just over a year after Riverhead Charter School announced plans to double its maximum enrollment from 414 students to 700 in grades K-8 during their charter, which runs through the 2021-22 school year. The New York State Board of Regents approved the increase in March.

Mr. Ankrum said the addition of the ninth and tenth grades would raise enrollment to 787 students.

Riverhead school board president Greg Meyer said the Riverhead district currently sends 297 students to the Charter School and pays $16,750 per student.

Most of a charter school’s funding comes from tuition paid by the public district each student would have otherwise attended. The majority of the Riverhead Charter School’s students come from the Riverhead district, William Floyd and Longwood. Additional funding comes from state and federal grants and private funding.

The school board would not vote on an expansion of Riverhead Charter School, which receives its approvals from the New York State Board of Regents.

Caption: Riverhead Charter School principal and executive director Raymond Ankrum addresses the Riverhead Board of Education. (Credit: Nicole Smith)

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