The Riverhead Charter School received approval from the New York State Board of Regents last week to offer ninth and 10th grades starting in the 2020-21 school year and to increase its maximum enrollment from 700 students to 787.
The current enrollment is 492, according to Raymond Ankrum, the school’s executive director and principal.
“We are very excited with the Regents’ decision to allow us to expand to high school,” Mr. Ankrum said. “Our families have been asking for this for years. Now we have the opportunity to watch our students develop from K through 12. We can’t wait until we’re able to announce that 100 percent of our students have been accepted into four-year colleges and universities.”
The school’s long-range plan is to add grades 11 and 12 beginning in the 2022-23 school year, which will require further approval from the Board of Regents.
The high school will be located in a building separate from the one that currently houses grades K-8. Where that building will be, and how much it will cost, have not been determined.
“We are in the beginning stages of planning,” Mr. Ankrum said. “We haven’t made any commitments as of yet.”
The Riverhead Charter School, on Middle Country Road in Calverton, was first approved by the Regents in 2001 as a K-4 school, and has received several extensions and charter revisions over the years to permit it to educate students through eighth grade.
Charter schools are funded on a per-pupil basis and the cost is based on the per-pupil cost at each student’s home district, so that the money follows the student.
The bulk of the charter school’s students come from the Riverhead, Longwood and William Floyd districts, but a total of about 15 districts send students there.
Riverhead Central school board president Greg Meyer said earlier this year that 297 students from the district attend the charter school, at a cost of $16,750 per student.
The cost of the high school will also be based on per-pupil costs, Mr. Ankrum said.
“We’ve been able to budget conservatively and have done more with less, allowing us to build a quality school for our students and families,” he said.
The charter school built a new $14.1 million building in 2015 to handle its elementary school grades, but it doesn’t have enough space to accommodate high school grades as well.
“We are allowed to recruit students to attend our high school; however, I’ve already stated that we wouldn’t poach Riverhead High School students from the district, and we plan to stay true to our word,” Mr. Ankrum said.
“We’d love to collaborate more with RCSD, as there hasn’t been much collaboration since I’ve been at RCS,” he added.
The Regents also approved a change in organizational structure for the charter school, which will move toward having a school superintendent and separate principals for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12, Mr. Ankrum said.
For the past three years, a higher percentage of charter school students have passed standardized tests in English Language Arts and math tests than their counterparts in the Riverhead school district, according to the state.
The charter school also has a much higher percentage than the Riverhead district of economically disadvantaged students and English Language Learners.
Riverhead has more students with disabilities, state numbers indicate.
The Riverhead Charter School’s current five-year term runs from July 2017 to June 30, 2022. Grade 9 will begin in the 2020-21 school year and grade 10 in 2021-22, which is also when the maximum permitted enrollment will be at 787.
As required by the Charter School Act, the Riverhead school district held a public hearing about the proposed charter school expansion on Jan. 23. Seventeen people attended, and none spoke in opposition, according to the Regents.
The charter school conducted a parent survey — in English and Spanish — in the fall and the 113 families that responded unanimously supported adding high school grades, according to the Regents.
Reasons for support ranged from continuity of a strong educational program to building relationships with students from a variety of school districts, the Regents stated.